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Achtung!

Tom Boyd

Bode Miller has a question he can’t answer: why can’t he and his teammates perform as well during races as they do in training?For World Cup ski racers, the answer to this question means the difference between glory and defeat, qualification and humiliation. Unfortunately for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, which is currently training at Loveland and Beaver Creek in preparation for the Chevy Truck America’s Opener World Cup race in Park City, Utah., podiums are scarce, Olympic medals are elusive, and frustration is in abundance.&quotI’ve been waiting a long time for the team to do as well as I know we can, and this is the time to do that,” Miller said during a press conference at Loveland Nov. 11. &quotBut that’s an example of why ski racing is so tough. You want to be able to race up to your ability in a race, and I still feel like I haven’t done that.&quotAnd neither have his teammates. Miller finished fifth at the opening giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria, and was the only racer of seven to qualify for the second run there. This comes after an Olympic year where Miller was the only alpine skier to appear on the medals map (two silvers) while freestyle skiers and snowboarders had the nation in an uproar.More than a dozen U.S. Ski Team members have retired from the team since the end of the 2002 Olympics. This paves the way for new blood like Carbondale’s 21-year-old Jake Zamansky and 18-year-old Old Spice Athlete of the Month T.J. Lanning. But the mass exodus from the ski team indicates something else, as well that the Americans consider the World Cup a form of Olympic training, and they don’t take it as seriously as their European counterparts.Not that the U.S. would admit to that. And, according to Miller, the difference between U.S. and European ski teams is a misperception.”People see a gap between us and the European teams, but I don’t see that,&quot Miller said.From a purely athletic perspective, that may be true, but the gap is clearly visible when it comes to overall team race results, where the U.S. continues to struggle.In an effort to close that gap, the U.S. has trained side-by-side with the Austrian team at Beaver Creek during the month of November for the past several years. U.S. racers now realize the Austrians are doing something different, but they’re not yet ready to emulate Austrian techniques.Case and point is Miller. With a style that is always on the edge, Miller is the prototype for American skiing: out-of-control, fast, and fiercely independent.Zamansky, who grew up training with the Aspen Ski Club, says he’s learning from Miller but not trying to be just like him.&quotI really enjoy watching Bode and learning what I can from him,&quot said Zamansky, who will make his World Cup slalom debut at Park City. &quotHe’s so relaxed in the starting gate. But for myself, I have my own style – we’re not like European teams where everyone is coached to ski in the same style.&quotAnd therein lies the difference. While European teams have a set technique that they enforce on all of their skiers, the U.S. tries to bring out the specific talents of individual skiers. The results so far, however, seem to be disjointed, erratic, and disappointing in comparison to their more regimented opponents.


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