FasterSkierFebruary 20, 2009

Today is an historic day for nordic ski racing in the United States. Not since Anders Haugen in 1924 has an American won a gold medal in Senior FIS World Championships. Today, USA skiers won two golds and one skier was 1.3 seconds from a bronze. Reults and full stories can be seen at the US Ski Team website br /br /This morning it was snowy and windy in Liberec, Czech Republic. It was not an easy day to be a nordic skier. Ski jumping in the wind can be a pretty dangerous activity. But yesterday was worse. For the first time ever FIS scheduled a Nordic Combined (Jumping combined with cross country) event that began with a 10 km mass start skate race. On a snowy, windy day US skiers Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong were standing 1st and 3rd respectively. Normally they would jump in the afternoon. Times-back in xc are converted into jump points. The athletes get two jumps and combine all points. With two huge jumps, Lodwick stayed in front and can now claim to be World Champion in Nordic Combined. Demong finished 5th. He finished 2nd in the last Worlds in Sapporo, Japan last year. Todd Lodwick, at age 32, had just come out of a two year retirement so that he could compete for a World Title. There are many pieces that had to come together for this to /br /Another first time Gold Medal was awarded in Women’s Ski Jumping. American Lindsey Van is now the very first female gold medalist in ski history. Lindsey’s last jump was 97.5 meters on a K90 jump. She moved up from 6th place in the first round to best all the top European jumpers. I remember watching Lindsey jumping when she was a little kid at Lake Placid. People said that girls shouldn’t jump. Maybe they were afraid of getting beaten. It has not been easy for Lindsey to get to this point. I should mention that Jessica Jerome finished in 6th /br /In the men’s 15km classic race USA skier Kris Freeman missed the podium by 1.3 seconds and is in the unloved 4th place. Kris is a dedicated athlete from Andover, NH who has had a rough road to this point. He is a type 1 diabetic who must take insulin doses via a pump that is attahced to his arm. He is also to have surgery, for the second time, for something called “compartment syndrome”. This is a condition where the connective tissue that surrounds lower leg is too tight for the muscle development. As the muscles develop and grow pressure builds in the lower leg. It is painful and dangerous because the pressure can inhibit blood flow. Kris has to have surgery for this condition as soon as he gets home to NH after the World Championships in Liberec. He skied a great /br /My hat is off to all these and the other athletes who have chosen what is a very difficult life. We skiers probably all know about the success of our alpine skiers. Not intending to leave people out, and not having time to write all of American ski racing history, I will make a couple of observations. We look back to the success of Phil Mahre in the World Cup overall wins in 1981-1983. We see Tamara McKinney, one of the best American female ski racers of all time with individual wins and the overall World Cup in 1983. Bode Miller is the current overall World Cup winner, although he seems to be facing some injury issues this winter. Lindsay Vonn is leading the World Cup points chase and has two alpine gold medals this year. My point is that the USA has seen some success in the alpine /br /A lot of us have watched nordic skiing for some time and have asked why do our best athletes usually finish in the mid to lower half of the result list. What is it with American nordic skiers? Are all the good athletes playing baseball, basketball and football? It was very exciting to see Kikkan Randall’s sprint win last year in Russia. I remember the jubilation in 1997 when the Nordic Combined Junior team won the gold medal in the Junior World Championships relay in Saalfelden , Austria. Bill Demong anchored that relay. I don’t think I have ever screamed so loudly. But there seem to be hurdles. And despite these barriers, there are athletes who are saying, YES WE CAN be world class athletes. I know we have talent. I also know that it takes a lot of support to enable it to happen. In America many think that ski racing is fine for kids, but after athletes reach their mid 20s people are saying “grow up and get on with life”. To continue to a peak in nordic skiing, especially cross country or nordic combined, it takes years. See that Todd Lodwick is 32. Skiers on European teams are often older, although that age is coming down lately. So it takes family support to keep going and continue the search for excellence. It takes the support of the National Governing Body, USSA for coaching, travel, equipment, lodging , physical therapy, etc. It takes the support of clubs and ski areas so that athletes can train when not with the US Team and for the development of younger athletes. It takes support of local sponsors, local organizing committees, peers. I know how hard these athletes work. It is not an easy road to follow. Year round they plan and carryout training; two to three workouts a day for years. The have to eat right, sleep right, learn to travel, get stronger, get faster while most of their peers are living locally not doing one week intensity blocks, followed by weeks of over-distance or jumping camps. There is the weight room, long rollerskis, endless video, fighting /br /I admire them for saying YES WE CAN. We know it is hard and are willing to work. We ask for support. If the leaders and communities and businesses and families of the United States value athletic excellence and really get to know these athletes, they must step up and support them. Then there might be more young people standing at the podium saying YES WE CAN. br /br /Have a good /br /Bertdiv class=”blogger-post-footer”img width=’1′ height=’1′ src=’’ alt=” //div

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