Cathy Bruce never finished better than 22nd as a World Cup "amateur," but she has been the Women's Pro Ski Racing champion two years in a row and tops the 1987 standings by a slim margin over Austrian rookie Roswitha Raudaschl.
What happened since she left the U.S. Ski Team following a broken ankle in the fall of 1979?
"I finally got fed up," Bruce said in Reno this week. "I got mad and decided to take out my anger on ski racing. Everyone said I could ski well, but why didn't I win?"
She didn't get fed up overnight, being content to finish second, third or fourth most of the time during her first five seasons as a professional.
"I had a slight confidence problem after being dropped from the team before the 1980 Winter Olympics," Bruce said. "It took a while for me to grow up mentally, and ski racing is definitely a mental sport."
Bruce, 29, who will compete in the $15,000 DeKuyper Cup this weekend at Squaw Valley, also credits Fritz Vallant, her husband of two years, for her recent breakthrough. "He told me that once I won a race, I wouldn't have any more mental hang-ups. And you know, he was right."
Vallant, 36, an Austrian who heads the ski program at Stratton Mountain Academy in Vermont, and Bruce have been together since he was a coach on the U.S. Ski Team eight years ago. "It was the classic case of a racer falling in love with her coach," Bruce said.
The women on the current team have gone through a couple of coaching upheavals in the last three years, and Bruce sympathized with how they feel. "It does make a difference who your coach is--how much he knows about racing, how supportive he is and whether he differentiates among individuals. Too many coaches just treat all racers alike and try to make them act and ski the same way."
Bruce, who has 270 points, leads the 19-year-old Raudaschl by 14, with only the races at Squaw--a giant slalom Saturday, a slalom Sunday--and a similar event at Kirkwood March 28-29 remaining on the schedule. The native of Corning, N.Y., has earned only $11,000 in official prize money, but with her various supplier contracts she stands to end the three-month season with several times that amount in her bank account.
"I'd rather not be too specific," she said. "Just say it could be between $40,000 and $80,000. The money is good, although not as much as some of the Europeans make on the World Cup circuit. Still, it may keep me racing for another year. Then Fritz and I want to start a family, and I can't see myself coming back after that."
ESPN will televise both of this weekend's World Cup races at Aspen, Colo., live--the men's downhill at 9 a.m. PST Saturday and the men's super-G at 9:30 a.m. PST Sunday. Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland has wrapped up the overall title. He has 294 points, and his closest competitor, Markus Wasmeier of West Germany (with 174 points), is out for the season with a spinal injury. Zurbriggen won the championship in 1984, then finished second to Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg the last two seasons. . . . The World Cup women will be at Mt. Allan, near Calgary, Canada, to test the 1988 Olympic downhill and super-G courses. Maria Walliser leads her Swiss teammate, Vreni Schneider, in the overall standings, 239 points to 230. . . . Todd Brooker, 27, who reinjured his left knee in a downhill training spill at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in January, announced his retirement, saying: "I can't compete 100% on the World Cup circuit and if you can't compete 100%, you shouldn't be there. Also, there was just too much of a chance of wrecking the knee and not being able to walk. This is where I draw the line."
The U.S. Men's Pro Ski Tour will be at Loon Mountain, N.H., Saturday and Sunday for the $40,000 New Hampshire Cup. In last weekend's $40,000 New York Cup at West Mountain, N.Y., Francois Vulliet of France won the slalom over Tomaz Cerkovnik of Czechoslovakia, and Joakim Wallner of Sweden took the giant slalom final from Riedar Wahl of Norway. . . . The Stella Artois Weekend World Cup series, co-sponsored by CitySports magazine, will stop at Northstar Sunday, then go to Mammoth Mountain/June Mountain March 14 before winding up with the finals March 27-29 at Mt. Reba/Bear Valley. . . . Royal Gorge, on Donner Summit, will again be the site of the U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Championships March 16-22.
The Jimmie Heuga Express on Mammoth Mountain last Friday raised more than $30,000 for the Jimmie Heuga Center in Avon, Colo., as 12 corporate-sponsored teams skied approximately 1.25 million vertical feet. The winning team, with 111,300 vertical feet, was Sierra High Energy System, which included Gordy Johnson, Connie Lizza and Tom Tuttle of the Mammoth Mountain Race Dept. The top teams from around the country will compete in the National Finals March 19-22 at Vail. Colo. The Jimmie Heuga Center is a non-profit scientific research organization that helps the physically challenged improve their lives through programs of fitness and exercise.