American racers go for glory at World Championships
Daily staff writers
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily is running profiles of members of the U.S. Ski Team. Many of these athletes will be representing the U.S. during the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, which are Feb. 2-15 at Beaver Creek and Vail. The U.S. Ski Team will announce selections for World Championships on Wednesday.
Disappointed with her Olympic year, Stacey Cook is off to a better start in this World Championships season.
She says the women’s speed team’s new coach, Stefan Abplanalp, has really helped improve morale among the speed skiers.
“Some of us were kind of bumming after last year, not reaching what we thought was our full potential and some of the goals that we had set for ourselves,” she said. “And it’s been really refreshing to have (Abplanalp) come in and say ‘Hey, you guys rock, let’s keep this going.’”
Cook, 30, was a part of the historic podium sweep at in the World Cup downhill at Lake Louise on Dec. 6. of this season, an apex moment for a team that has been building its skills as well as camaraderie under the new coach. She was flanked on the podium by Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso.
“In the past we have had Lindsey and Julia go their own separate ways, and they’ve done that in order to get what they need, but (Abplanalp’s) idea was to bring us all together, and being together is what we all need. It’s been really fun to have those two work back into our team, and be part of this awesome team environment that we’ve created. It’s like a friendship, not just teammates but you’re actually friends, and it makes it fun to be around each other and to travel with each other, and that they mean more to you than just being a teammate.”
Katie Ryan, 21, is an Aspen native who says she lives for speed, especially on the super-G course, her specialty. She came to skiing “late” at the age of 5, compared to many of her teammates who were skiing as soon as they could walk. Still, she had some spectacular training on the slopes of Ajax Mountain, trying to keep up with men’s downhiller Wiley Maple.
After dominating the NorAm circuit and racking up some great results as a junior, Ryan is looking to make her mark on the U.S. Ski Team. Unfortunately, she’s been sidelined by a number of injuries that include a torn ACL in March. Thanks to relentless physical therapy and an anti-inflammatory diet, she was back on skis within five months.
That’s not the first time she’s bounced back astonishingly fast from an injury. In 2012, she returned from a mid-season broken arm to win junior super-G gold at the 2012 U.S. Alpine Championships. It was only her second race back.
“I’m ready to have my best year yet,” she said, adding that she’s worked on her mental game as well since last season. “Going into this season, I feel like nothing can stop me.”
Ryan’s only World Cup experience so far has been at Lake Louise, Canada, but watch out for her on the downhill and super-G courses this season.
When not racing, Ryan is either at home biking, hiking and skiing, or training in Park City during the offseason.
Wyoming-born Anna Marno, 22, grew up in a ski racing family and honed her skills in Steamboat Springs. Skiing was a way of life, so much so that as a kid, she named the animals in their barn after ski racing greats — Herman, Bode, Picabo and Tomba.
The all-round racer sat out most of last season with a blown ACL/MCL (her second injury on the same knee), but she returned during the Olympic year to land top 10 in all of the NorAm Cup discipline standings except slalom, including fourth in overall, giant slalom and super-G. She finished off the season with a bronze medal in giant slalom at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships at Squaw Valley, California.
“It’s been a long road getting back. It definitely took more time than I thought it would take originally, but I’m healthy now and looking forward to a full season,” she said.
She had her first World Cup start at Beaver Creek in 2013, and so far this season has been on the NorAm circuit, looking for more World Cup starts.
“I have grown up racing on Beaver Creek, doing training on the World Cup course, so it was cool to have my first World Cup there,” she said. “I had a lot of friends and family who came and watched. It’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was a little intimidating, but I’d do it again.”
Abby Ghent is a born-and-raised Vail native, the daughter of two former U.S. Ski Team members. She grew up hanging out at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and looking up to other Vail-based racers that include Lindsey Vonn and Sarah Schleper.
The cheery 22-year-old has had her share of setbacks in her career so far, including an injured knee, a fractured tibial plateau and then a dislocated elbow and shoulder last year. Through the summer, she worked around her injuries in the gym and says she’s as healthy as ever.
She was the NorAm super-G champion in 2014, earning her a World Cup start at Lake Louise at the beginning of this season. Since then, she’s also had positive results on the NorAm circuit, but her loftiest goal this season is to make the team for the World Championships so she can race on home ground.
Her dad organizes the race volunteers, and she remembers the days of slipping the course for World Cup races as a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail racer, so she knows a thing or two about what it takes to put on such a huge event.
“It’s crazy. I remember the 1999 World Champs and now it’s back, and I have the potential to race in it,” she said.
Her sister Erika raced as well on the collegiate and NorAm circuits, and sister Christa also raced until injuries caught up with her. When she’s home in Vail, you’ll find her at her favorite haunts, including the SSCV clubhouse and Loaded Joe’s coffee house.