Two years and counting for Eagle Co. Olympians |

Two years and counting for Eagle Co. Olympians

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado

Next week, when the World Cup tour heads to Whistler, British Columbia, for a test run of the 2010 Vancouver Games alpine venue, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Chief Executive Officer Bill Marolt will have his eyes on the 2010 Games. However, his thoughts may be looking even further forward.As soon as one (Olympics) ends, you have to start thinking about the next one, Marolt said. Now, as weve done a good job with planning and thinking about the future, we need to think about upcoming games, in this case the 2014 Sochi Games, and keep the 2018 Games in the back of our mind, Marolt said.Sunday marks two years and counting until the 2010 games.Its really amazing how time flies, said alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, a two-time Olympian. It seems like only yesterday we were in Torino.And it seems like Vancouver is only a long weekend away. While there are certainly plenty of things that can happen between now and Feb. 17, 2010, the names of this winter may still be the hot names in two years.I think we have a good idea of the athletes who will be on the 2010 team, Marolt said. But its always possible that someone in the rest of this year or next winter or even in the few months before the games will make an impression.As was the case at the 2006 Torino Games, there are a bevy of Vail Valley athletes who have their eye on some precious medals north of the border. Vonn, the former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete, has her sights set high, and with good reason.Torino didnt go so well, Vonn said. Ive learned to deal with expectations and all the things that come with it. I feel really excited and ready for those Olympics. Hopefully third time is a charm.Vonn competed in the 2002 Salt Lake Games, where she had her best Olympic finished at sixth place in the combined. In Torino, Vonn suffered a crash right before competing and had mediocre results. But since Torino, Vonn has been on a tear and has all but locked up this years World Cup downhill title.Theres for sure going to be a lot of pressure and a lot of media, said Vonn, who has achieved superstar status in ski-savvy Europe. Its close to home, but they are going to be so much different. Its going to be my opportunity. I feel like Ive come a long way, and its all about the state you are in. Are you relaxed and ready or are you worried youre not going to get your dreams or goals?

After sitting out last season with an injury and taking most of this year off to give birth to her first child, Vails Sarah Schleper is rearing to get back in the gates for one final push the 2010 Games.Thats my goal I want to go two more years and finish out my career, Schleper said.Earlier this month, Schleper brought a son, Lasse, into the world, and had minor surgery on her knee Tuesday.Im going to start dryland training, and Ill go to my first camp in May, said Schleper, who has competed in the three previous winter Olympics. Im hoping I can get really strong in the next couple of weeks so when I get back on the snow Ill feel fit. I was walking 4K a day when I was pregnant and riding a stationary bike.Kirsten Cooper, a current U.S. Development Team skier who lives in Eagle, also may have a good shot at making the Olympics while there are several junior club skiers who may jump onto the radar next year.

When it comes to halfpipe competitions, Minturns Clair Bidez is a name that pops up high on any list. Bidez, who is on the U.S. Snowboarding Team, hopes she can get a shot at an Olympic start.Its a dream of mine to compete in the Olympics, Bidez said. I talk with my U.S. Team coaches about the 2010 Olympics occasionally.Unlike in alpine, snowboarding has fewer events and fewer starting spots, so the competition to make the team is very tight.Right now, its too far away to have a clear impression of whos going to make it, but its a long-term goal and my coaches see it as very realistic, Bidez said.Along with Bidez, there are a bevy of locals who may jump up to the next level, one of whom is U.S. Rookie Team Rider Dylan Bidez.It would be amazing to go to the Olympics with my brother, Clair Bidez said. Weve talked about that for years.And while he wont compete under the red, white and blue banner, Vails Chris DelBosco will be donning the home red and white colors in 2010. DelBosco is a member of the Canadian Olympic Skicross team and a consistent top finisher in many of the international competitions.Skicross, which was approved by the International Olympic Committee shortly after the 2006 Games, will make its debut in 2010.U.S. Disabled Team member, Ralph Green, who is overcoming an injury, has a great chance at making the 2010 Paralympic Games.

Much like in the previous two Olympics, Marolt is setting high standards for the team.In 2002, we had a goal as best in the world winning more ski and snowboard medals than any other nation. We didnt quite hit that, but it was our best performance. We had 10 golds (overall). For 2010, our goal is to be best in the world that will be our target then and will always be our target, Marolt said.Although there are certain events like snowboarding in which the U.S. is the clear favorite to win medals, Marolt isnt focused on where the medals come from. We dont care about that, but we know we have to have success across the board. If we want to do that, we have to win in all disciplines, he said.Between now and 2010, Marolt knows he cant make too many structural changes, but there is still plenty that can be done to push the U.S. up in the medal standings. We need to make sure were providing the maximum service to athletes who are in a position to podium in Vancouver, whether its through conditioning, on-snow training, better equipment or travel, Marolt said. At the same time, we need to make sure were focusing in on those athletes below the C Team that have potential to make the team and do well.In March 2009, the USSA plans to open its Center of Excellence in Salt Lake City, and there are some other facilities plans in the works.Were working to establish a better training facility in Colorado weve been in discussion with Copper trying to find a way to do it where we can have world-class training in late October and early November, Marolt said.

When skiers get their first runs on the Olympic hill next week, they will be taking plenty of notes.Its going to be important utilizing every training run to try and get to know the course as much as I can, Vonn said. But just like the World Cup stop in Whistler, the Olympics will be one race per discipline and anything good or bad can happen.Thats whats tough about ski racing, Vonn said. Its an outdoor sport and there are so many variables.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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