Junior Olympians following in Vonn’s footsteps | VailDaily.com

Junior Olympians following in Vonn’s footsteps

JO's giant slalom Irwin KA 03-08-09

VAIL, Colorado ” It’s impossible and unfair to compare anyone to Lindsey Vonn.

The Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumna is the top female skier in the world, and the most accomplished American women ever on the World Cup circuit.

That said, the athletes at this week’s Junior Olympics do have something in common with the defending overall World Cup champion. Vonn raced in many of the same competitions the current Olympians are skiing in during her days with Ski Club Vail.

SSCV coach J.J. Jensen said it wouldn’t be surprising if one or more of the skiers in Vail this week end up on the U.S. Ski Team someday.

“Lindsey is one of the best skiers in the world,” Jensen said. “You take skiers like Lindsey and Sarah (Schleper), they just love the sport. I think they can (make it), but they have to keep working harder than everyone else.”

The parallels between Vonn and the Junior Olympians don’t stop on the race course. Before she came to SSCV, Vonn raced for Buck Hill, Minn. Where does Paula Moltzan, winner of the super-G and giant slalom call home? Yep, Buck Hill along with a number of talented skiers from the area.

First look

What fans see as 1 minute (or less) of intense action is really the product of hours of hard work. Before the skiers take the starting gate, they wax their skis and inspect the course. Each is imperative to victory.

SSCV’s Katharine Irwin spends time each night making sure her skis are ready to race. Most athletes let their parents or coaches wax their skis, but Irwin takes pride in everything being just right.

The athletes also inspect the course before each race and imagine themselves going down it. The process is particularly important in speed events where the skiers whiz past the gates.

“For me, the inspections are really important,” Irwin said. “It’s not so much knowing exactly where the gates are. It’s more the important gates and how to run the course.”

Giant slalom, Round 2

The J3 Junior Olympics continues today with the boys’ giant slalom. Unfortunately, weather could play a factor. According to weather.com, 2-4 inches of snow was expected overnight with another 3-5 inches during the day.

Race officials started preparing the course for today’s race on Monday night. Chief of race P.J. Jenick said a snowcat lightly tilled the course. If snow falls, a snowcat is standing by to do any additional work. The light till will help crews get the course ready faster if it snows, Jenick said.

The Junior Olympic boys should hope the snow stays away. Monday’s giant slalom course drew rave reviews from coaches and athletes.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism