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No racing, no problem for U.S. Ski Team

Ian Cropp

It’s every skier’s dream. Or at least it should be.”This is what we live for – a powder day,” said U.S. Ski Team member Justin J. Johnson.Well, if Johnson and the rest of the U.S. team weren’t living the dream of skiing for a profession, they might have been able to enjoy fully the powder day Wednesday.Instead of being up to his waist in snow, Johnson joined a group of his teammates in a game of pickup basketball at the Vail Cascade Club and Spa.After watching a bit of the game, I think it’s safe to say not too many of the guys will be living any hoop dreams.Risking my most important asset as a journalist – credibility – I’m going to go out on a limb and makes some comparisons.Erik Fisher’s all-around style could be compared to that of LeBron James’. Scott Macartney’s moves remind me of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Bode Miller has the dunkability of “Dr. J,” Julius Erving. Johnson has the potential to shoot like John Stockton. Coach John McBride played with the youthful exuberance of an older Michael Jordan. And Chris Beckmann, well, he’s got the size of a mini-Shaquille O’Neal.A watchful Marco Sullivan broke down the action for me.”We’ve gotta keep our game short because we’ve got bad knees,” Sullivan said.

The streetsEveryone is familiar with the slopes on which these guys honed their skiing skills, but I’m about to divulge some pretty big secrets – where they learned to ball it up.”I played out on the driveway growing up,” Beckmann said.And Johnson?”In the hoods of Park City,” Johnson boasted.The best kept secret of Redmond, Wash., is Macartney, whom Sullivan knighted as the all-star of the game.And like any professional athletes, these guys know there is always room for improvement. Beckmann told me what he believes to be the weakest part of his game.”Pretty much everything,” Beckmann said.So in the offseason will he be pursuing an alternate career in basketball?”No, not at all,” Beckmann said.

A good dayWednesday’s canceled training session meant the Birds of Prey course was closed, but the guys still spent some time on the slopes.”Our first priority is skiing, and we did ski today,” Sullivan said, noting the team took morning runs on Centennial.But the day did offer a much-needed break after last weekend’s race at Lake Louise, Alberta.”I was going to do a little free skiing, but I took the day off and slept in a bit,” Johnson said.The guys were all smiles on the court, and hopefully the day of rest will help the guys on the hill. “Last weekend (at Lake Louise) I tensed up a bit, and I think I learned my lesson,” Johnson said. “I’ve just gotta keep having fun and keep laughing.”And while the guys didn’t spend much time on the hill, they are thankful for those who did.”I just want to say that we really appreciate the volunteers,” Sullivan said.



What they missedHeeding the advice of McBride, I decided to bask in the bowls of Beaver Creek. Unlike the back bowls of Vail, the powder-filled Rose Bowl was nearly empty. And it’s a good thing, too, because there weren’t many witnesses to my Herman Maieresque Nagano crash.Anyone looking for proof of what left only my eye balls uncovered with snow can search out a broken out-of-bounds marker on Ripsaw run.But I think you’re time would be better spent watching professionals thundering down the super-G course today.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or icropp@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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