OSLO (March 9) – Two-time Olympian Pete Vordenberg was named Thursday night as the new U.S. cross country head coach, replacing Trond Nystad, who is resigning effective at the end of this Olympic season, U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said.
At the same time, Bodensteiner – who was in Oslo for the traditional Holmenkollen Ski Festival and to oversee announcing the changes – said Vidar Loefshus, another Norwegian native and the first sprint coach hired by the U.S. Ski Team two years ago, was resigning at the end of the season, too.
Also, the Americans' lead wax technician, Chris Hall, has left the program and Roar Lillefjell moved from an assistant wax tech into the top job. Bodensteiner said he will hire another one or two wax techs.
“Trond's just burned out,” Bodensteiner told the AP. “He goes full gas all the time and he's done so for the last four years. He's given more than what he had for sure. … Nobody's disappointed. They understand these guys have a life outside of skiing.”
Nystad has been with the U.S. Ski Team for four years and Loefshus for two. Vordenberg was a natural choice to become the new head coach. He is popular with the team and has made many positive changes in the program during his tenure.
“The athletes are happy he's sticking around and that he'll be in that leadership role,” Bodensteiner said. “It's going to be a smooth transition.”
Bodensteiner said that he has been interviewing potential additions to the coaching staff the past two weeks. Bodensteiner hopes to have a staff in place by mid-April. Thanks to increased funding from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced last month in Pragelato, Italy, Bodensteiner plans to add a new fourth coaching position.
Vordenberg, 34, a 1992 and '94 Olympic skier, has been a member of the U.S. coaching staff since the spring of 2002 when he and Nystad were hired. Vordenberg, who majored in environmental studies at Northern Michigan University, was the 1993 NCAA 20K freestyle ski champion. Nystad, 35, a native of Fauske, Norway, was a former assistant coach with Denver University and head cross country and running coach at Northern Michigan University; he also was the 1992 NCAA 20K classic ski champion for the University of Vermont.
“We've had four outstanding years from Trond. He and Pete and Vidar have put the cross country program on track for what we feel will be some great success. But it's a demanding job and Trond got married last summer [to German star Claudia Kuenzel] and he's decided to move on to other things,” Bodensteiner said. “We're fortunate to have had him for these four years. And the same for Vidar; he said he'd give us two years and he's more than delivered on what we thought could be a very promising program. Obviously, we wish them both all the best.”
Among recent athletic successes, Bodensteiner pointed to Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) finishing fourth this season in a World Cup sprint, the best U.S. sprint result in history and the highest American finish in more than two decades, and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who was fifth Tuesday night in a sprint, the best U.S. female result since the World Cup was created with the 1982 season. She also was ninth in the Olympic sprint, the best alltime U.S. women's result at the Olympics or World Championships. Newell was a member of the US Ski Team this past year, but Randall was not, as the US women's team was eliminated last spring. Randall trained with her home club, APU Nordic Ski Center in Anchorage, Alaska. With an increase in funding on the way, Randall has certainly earned a spot on the US team this coming year.
The World Cup season continues Saturday with racing at Holmenkollen before moving to the Far East for the first World Cup races in China – freestyle sprints Wednesday in Changchun – and concluding March 18-19 in Sapporo, Japan, host of the 2007 World Nordic Ski Championships.
Sources: AP and US Ski Team
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