NewsU.S. Olympic Cross-Country and Nordic Combined Teams Named

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U.S. teammates Jessie Diggins (l) and Kikkan Randall celebrate a gold medal in the freestyle team sprint at 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
U.S. teammates Jessie Diggins (l) and Kikkan Randall celebrate a gold medal in the freestyle team sprint at 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

The U.S. Cross-Country and Nordic Combined teams officially announced their athlete selections for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which start in just over two weeks in Sochi, Russia.

The U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team (USST) includes seven men and seven women, filling 14 of the maximum 17 quota spots. On a conference call, head coach Chris Grover explained that no discretion was involved, leaving the selection to either the first criteria of a top-50 World Cup ranking or the third standard regarding International Ski Federation (FIS)-point rankings.

The objective was to fill the maximum starts allowed per race, not necessarily the quota.

“We’re excited to announce the strongest cross-country team to the Winter Olympic Games in modern history, if not ever,” Grover said.

The women’s team is led by Olympic veterans Kikkan Randall (APU/USST), Liz Stephen (Burke/USST), and Holly Brooks (APU/USST) and also includes Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST), Sophie Caldwell (SMST2/USST), Jessie Diggins (SMST2/USST), and Ida Sargent (CGRP/USST).

The men’s team includes Olympic veterans Andy Newell (SMST2/USST), Simi Hamilton (SMST2/USST), Kris Freeman (MWSC) and Torin Koos (BSF/Rossignol), plus Noah Hoffman (SSCV/Team HomeGrown/USST), Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST), and Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus).

While three of the seven men on the team are not on the U.S. Ski Team, all of the women are on the national squad.

“We had our team approved last night,” Grover explained. “I’ve notified everyone that was in the top 10 of the rankings, but on the wrong side of the selection. Some athletes knew it was coming for sure; everyone had seen the points list…

“We really tried to apply the selection criteria in the most fair way possible,” he continued. “That becomes for sure a challenge, especially on the men’s side when you get down to the sixth, seventh, eighth guys, you’re really splitting hairs because the FIS points are so close. … Because they were so close, we opted not to use discretion. It really wasn’t a fair way to do it. It’s obviously super exciting for the athletes that were on the right side of that cut and heartbreaking for those that [weren’t].”

***

Demong (l) and teammate Todd Lodwick (right) get congratulations from friends and family after winning silver in the team event at the Olympics
U.S. teammates Bill Demong (l) and Todd Lodwick (r) get congratulations from friends and family after winning silver in the team event at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

All four of U.S. Nordic Combined’s A-team members were named to the Olympic team, which maximized its quota of four. The team includes Olympic veterans Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Taylor Fletcher, as well as Fletcher’s older brother, Bryan Fletcher, who narrowly missed qualifying for his first Olympics in 2010.

Lodwick has spent the last 10 days in Park City, Utah, rehabbing a dislocated shoulder and humerus fracture he sustained in a jumping accident in France. Head coach Dave Jarrett said he is focusing on recovering in time for the team event.

“There’s one thing that he really wants is another medal at the Olympics, more than being a six-time Olympian,” Jarrett said of Lodwick. “We feel that if anyone can recover from injury, Todd can do it. We’re looking to maximize his recovery in every way possible.”

The U.S. had hoped to secure the maximum of five Olympic spots, but were just outside the top-55 cutoff based on World Cup standings from the last calendar year to Jan. 19. Bryan Fletcher led the team in 11th in the World Cup rankings through that point, Demong was 22nd, Taylor Fletcher 27th and Lodwick 52nd. The team had hoped to get one of their B-teamers, such as Brett Denney, to the Olympics as well, but Denney was unable to score World Cup points to make the overall standings (he could have been selected if the total number of 55 athletes was not met based on World Cup points and defaulted to Continental Cup standings.)

“It was gonna be razor thin,” Jarrett said. “At the end of the qualification period, the spot Johnny [Spillane, now retired] scored points in last year wasn’t enough to qualify … [and] none of our B-team guys have scored World Cup points. We were 56th and they took 55. It’s just the way that it shook out.”

The 2014 Olympics are likely to be the last for both Lodwick and Demong. “Between Bill, Johnny and Todd, there’s gonna be a big [void] that needs to be filled,” Jarrett said, adding that the Fletcher brothers have already made huge strides in their footsteps.

2014 OLYMPIC CROSS COUNTRY NOMINATIONS

Men’s Cross Country
Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (7/14/1991)
Brian Gregg, Winthrop, WA (6/27/1984)
Kris Freeman, Concord, NH (10/14/1980) *
Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO (5/14/1987) *
Noah Hoffman, Aspen, CO (8/1/1989)
Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA (7/19/1980) *
Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT (11/30/1983) *

Women’s Cross Country
Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (11/21/1989)
Holly Brooks, Anchorage (4/17/1982) *
Sophie Caldwell, Peru, VT (3/22/1990)
Jessie Diggins, Afton, MN (8/26/1991)
Kikkan Randall, Anchorage (12/31/1982) *
Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT (1/25/1988)
Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT (1/12/1987) *

2014 OLYMPIC NORDIC COMBINED NOMINATIONS

Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (3/29/1980) *
Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (11/21/1976) *
Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (6/27/1986)
Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (8/11/1990) *

* Competed in past Olympics

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91 comments

  • Avatar
    John Forrest Tomlinson

    January 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Strong teams. Very very nice to see the depth in US racing.

    I have one comment about Chris Grover’s statement that “no discretion was involved” : not using coaches discretion is, in fact, a form of discretion.

  • Avatar
    tclaynm@juno.com

    January 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Awesome teams this year. It’s hard to argue with those selections, but a big shout out should go to those athletes that were right in there so close. No doubt that the US level is increasing all the time thanks to the hard work and dedication of the athletes.

    Congratulations to the athletes who did make it and you all have the absolute best days of racing you’ve ever had in these Olympics!!!

  • Avatar
    JustinFereshetian

    January 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Congrats to everyone selected! I was hoping Sylvan would also get one of those spots, but you can’t really argue when they just go by the rankings and points. But it is unfortunate for those right on the cusp of qualifying that they decided not to use 3 of their quota spots. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing some good results from team USA!

  • Avatar
    WI skier

    January 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t think I agree with the no discretion was used comment since the top 4 distance skiers based on FIS rankings were not named to the team and you need at least 4 skiers for the distance relay (an extra one or two in case of illness/injury would be good). I assume they looked at who would ski classic and skate and decided based on that they didn’t need the top 4, but that is discretion. I would also argue that the time to use discretion is when the points are really close to name who is hot, or who you think will be hot. If there is a big gap in points between who is named and who isn’t it is most likely an easy decision and no discretion would be needed.

  • Avatar
    skierout

    January 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I think you guys are misunderstanding the use of the word discretion in Grover’s quote. Good luck to all of the athletes named! This will be exciting to watch.

  • Avatar
    apresski

    January 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Congratulations to all of the athletes nominated to the Olympic cross country ski team! I agree with the first two comments about the strength and depth of U.S. skiing. Best of luck in Sochi!

    My 2 cents worth…….was not the U.S.A allotted 16 total competitors for the games? If so why did they not fill them. If not disregard my ramblings! If they could have included 2 more athletes, Ellefson and Gregg(Caitlin) seem to have been possible choices for discretionary votes.

  • Avatar
    WI skier

    January 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I should have started off with a big congratulations to all that made it and I am excited to watch.

    I’m not arguing if the team named is right or wrong. The no discretion comment just struck me as trying to weasel out of taking responsibility. It seems like discretion is used if the #4 sprinter who doesn’t meet the World Cup objective criteria is named to the team, but the #4 distance person is not. There is room for both. I don’t know how many sprint relay teams a country can start. If it isn’t two this is entirely discretionary since you wouldn’t need 4 sprinters. Even if there are two starts, discretion is till being used to start a lower ranked distance guy in the distance relay. Again, I’m not saying it is wrong since if I was the coach I likely wouldn’t start the 4 top FIS ranked distance skier in the relay, but I wouldn’t say I wasn’t using discretion to do so.

  • Avatar
    Xaphoon

    January 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    It appears to be impossible to make the olympics by racing only the super tour and nationals?

  • Avatar
    Xaphoon

    January 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Also looks like batman still around!

  • Avatar
    coskier

    January 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Congratulations to all of the athletes nominated to the Olympic cross country ski team!

    It is a shame that the decision was made to not take full advantage of the positions aviablable and continue to generate energy for the sport in the US. Additionally, we need to reconsider how the selection process is conducted and the inequities that skiers based in the US must overcome.

  • Avatar
    tclaynm@juno.com

    January 22, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I agree that it would have been even greater if they could have added Caitlin Gregg for the women, and Sylvan Ellefson and/or Matt Liebsch for the men. I do think those three athletes deserved a spot. The article above said we (USA) had 17 spots. But, I know how that stuff goes: only so much to work with, etc.

  • Avatar
    Tuck Miller

    January 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Congratulations to the athletes named–all these athletes are great examples of commitment and dedication.
    A tough decision for the coaches and not an envious position for the selection committee with the depth of American skiing nowadays.
    I would normally never second guess the selection committee but I think there is a glaring omission here–Caitlin Gregg.
    As a coach and parent of nationally competitive skiers, I’ve been trailside in countless races over the past years and cannot remember more dominant performances than those delivered by Caitlin this winter.

    FIS/USSA points can be very skewed at particular races-both up and down-depending on athletes in attendance, performance of high point holding skiers, sprint vs distance points, day of race points in World Cup pursuits, mass start vs interval start points. Any experienced skier/coach is very aware of the vagaries of the points system. Be at the right race and the points for mediocre skiers can sometimes be better than podium performances on the World cup.

    Totally dominant performances are not rewarded under this system and can only be measured against the performance of the field and it does not matter whether the race winner wins by a second or ten minutes–the points for the winner are pre-determined by the start list.

    My point with the omission of Caitlin Gregg is that she did everything right this season–and it is this season that counts if one is looking for current ability to perform in February. She was utterly overwhelming in distance, freestyle racing but her dominance can only be measured by the points of the other athletes in the race. Her ability in freestyle racing, on difficult courses at altitude, is unparalleled domestically and a comparison to the athletes racing in Europe is not viable using the points list. Does she have medal potential?–I’m smart enough to not forecast results–but I will say that her current distance skiing capability is as good as any put down by an American skier in my decades in the sport. The 30K race in Sochi is custom made for her and she has demonstrated her capability.

    As a coach, parent and and program manager, I find this omission very demoralizing. We can do everything right and it’s just pouring our energy and money down a hole.

    Her performances this winter demonstrate that complete dedication, a big support team, equipment sponsors, a bunch of money, great attitude and sound decisions can lead to dominant performances–but it won’t lead to an Olympic team. She, and her team, did everything possible to show that she deserved a position on this Olympic team. She is being robbed by an unfair points system.

    Her omission sends a poor message to all the athletes, coaches, teams committed to the Olympic dream. If one cannot succeed with her performances what is the point

    Fix this now USST. We, the skiing community in the US, have built a selection process for just this purpose.

    Personal note–she’s a great person as well. Makes everyone feel like a winner and has been so welcoming to young athletes coming up the ranks.

  • Avatar
    hondo

    January 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Congrats to those named, and good luck.

    I’m definitely disappointed to see US not fill its complete quota. Matt Liebsch is just .04 FIS points back from Brian Gregg – that’s a brutal splitting of hairs (FIS points) to leave him home. Sylvan Ellefson and Caitlin Gregg both won Sr Nationals in impressive form, yet they stay home. Why not let athletes know in advance that this race has no consequence (other than FIS points) on Olympic selection? Or, use discretion (supposed to be the 2nd criterion, remember?) to give a newcomer a shot to represent and inspire the next wave of US skiers (Ellefson and Miles Havlick would have been awesome picks). Limiting to 14 athletes seems short-sighted and stingy.

  • Avatar
    WI skier

    January 22, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Whether or not to name a full team is a tough one. Obviously you would like to be able to focus resources at the Olympics on the people who have a legitimate shot at a medal. On the other hand having more “Olympians” out in their communities after the games to help grow the sport sure can’t hurt long term. A kid at an elementary school is probably much more likely to take notice if an Olympic skier visits the class than if a “very good” skier shows up.

  • Avatar
    FasterSkier

    January 22, 2014 at 2:47 pm

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  • Avatar
    John Forrest Tomlinson

    January 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    “The no discretion comment just struck me as trying to weasel out of taking responsibility.”

    Exactly, They choose not to use an option open to them in selecting the team. That’s actually a decision.

    And again: great team. Congrats also for the athletes who didn’t make it for pushing those that did, and to the US coaching and support staff that has helped raise the level so much.

  • Avatar
    Tim Kelley

    January 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    If the USST goal is top three at the Olympics, then how does top 50 on the World Cup list make sense for automatic selection? That’s way too generous, And in concept – discretionary. It should be top 20. Anyone over 20 on the list should be reuired to go back to Nationals and race to qualify. That would be less discretionary and fairer to Super Tour skiers.

  • Avatar
    skierout

    January 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    The comment above leads me to believe you would complain what decision was made.

  • Avatar
    zimborst

    January 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Congrats to all the named skiers, all deserving, all talented and committed. It saddens me to see other deserving skiers left at home when 3 spots were still available. The Olympics is supposed to be as much about participation as success; only a small handful can medal, but many more can and should participate. Young skiers can benefit from the experience and readied for the future, even if they don’t get to race. The cost of the full team is covered by the IOC and USOC, so why not take a full 17 skier team? Caitlin Gregg is completely deserving; Liebsch, Reese Hanneman and others are also deserving. If I were in their shoes, I would want to go even if I slept in a snow cave and waxed my own skis….

  • Avatar
    lhumbert

    January 22, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Congrats to all those named to the Olympic Team. Strong teams! Not an easy decision for the coaches. Tuck Miller, I agree with you 100%. The points system needs improvement. What hope does an up and coming elite skier have with the current system? Caitlin did everything she had to do to make this team. She earned it.

  • Avatar
    magnar

    January 22, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I’m going to ramble…

    Caitlin Gregg won the 20k by 3:36 or nearly 6.5% over her nearest competitor. There is no way to convince me that with they type of performance that she has put down this year, so far, she would not have been able to pop a race or two to meet the criteria had she been permitted to race worldcups.

    I really like Tim Kelley’s idea about the top 20 auto qualifying – and the rest racing at nationals.
    I felt like the opposite was encouraged this year. If you were Sadie (who had an incredible early season, and has been quiet since) or Holly (who had a 25th place and not to much else notable – I’m intentionally ignoring Tour de Ski right now, as 3 of the top 4 skiers in the world didn’t race) would you race at nationals? Not if you can qualify without going – not if there is a chance that someone there (Caitlin or otherwise) could beat you.

    What other sports are picking their teams without Olympic trials?
    Biathlon and Nordic combined both have ways to qualify automatically, but both use a race or series of races to name their team.
    Look at track, look at swimming – if you can’t show up at the trials you don’t go to the Olympics.

    No system is going to be 100% fair, nor will any system pick the best athlete 100% of the time. That said, if Caitlin’s dominance domestically wasn’t enough to earn her a spot – then it was impossible to get one, and I feel that should have been made clear from the outset.

    As for “discretion.” I’m disappointed in the USST deflecting blame for possibly unpopular picks. Criteria should be set in stone and made clear to those trying to meet it. It is definitely discretion when you pick things like how far up the points list to go.

  • Avatar
    hondo

    January 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I wonder when the selection committee and coaches last bothered to read the Olympic Creed? Might be worth a refresher as they gaze at those unfilled quota spots: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

  • Avatar
    WI skier

    January 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I would like to see Nationals play a bigger role in naming the team, but I don’t know that 100% following the track and swimming model is the way to go.because of the equipment aspect. If your wax tech blows your skis for Nationals it could cost you your spot.

  • Avatar
    longtimer

    January 22, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    In the end it appears that US championships were essentially meaningless for selection. Here are the rankings based on Soldier Hollow
    Hannemen 152 (best 2 = 110, a distance race and a sprint)
    Bjornsen 142 (best 2 = 110, a distance race and a sprint)
    Freeman 120 (best 2 = 84, two distance races)
    Ellefson 116 (best 2 = 96, two distance races)
    Gregg 108 (best 2 = 82, two distance races)
    Koos 88 (best 2 = 88, two sprints)

  • Avatar
    soysauce2014

    January 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    First and foremost congratulations to all of the athletes selected to represent the US in the Olympics. You are all well deserving of this honor.
    Secondly, I am confused and baffled that the US didn’t fill the quota for the team. Skiing is at it’s highest peak that it’s ever been in America and each year that peak is raised again and again. With so many deserving athletes it seems bizarre and counter-productive not to included as many athletes as possible in the Olympics. As many have already stated Caitlin Gregg, Sylvan Ellefson, Matt Liebsch, Resse Hannemen, Miles Havlick, Mikey Sinnott, Rebecca Rorabaugh and many others are viable candidates for the Olympic team. These athletes could gain valuable experience from competing at the highest stage in their sport and better themselves for the next winter games. This rant may seem incoherent but many of us would like to hear some of the reasoning for cutting the Olympic team short. Every single athlete that has been mentioned in the rest of the posts could bring a new dynamic to the team and only improve an already stellar group of individuals.

  • Avatar
    trsk8

    January 22, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Caitlin Gregg should be on the team. I think she could be a very strong 30k skater in the Olympics, and could improve our results. I am disappointed in the decision-makers.

  • Avatar
    skierout

    January 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Not filling the quota has to do with managing a team effectively. Do you know many skis each athlete has? That’s just the start. Who is responsible for gaining those extra quota spots? Not any of the people left off the team. Let our brightest stars shine. They’ve earned it. I feel bad for skiers like Caitlin, but I understand the decision made by Grover and company.

  • Avatar
    xcmyers

    January 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Fill the quota, it only makes sense! By adding athletes (I would prefer Caitlin Gregg and Matt Liebsch), you encourage Nordic skiing at the grass roots level. Plus, both these athlete have done a tremendous job of promoting Nordic skiing and deserve the honor. If we want Nordic skiing to grow this would be the proper step! Correct this, it is not to late!

  • Avatar
    leelars

    January 22, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Todd, I hope this gets through to you: Wow, can’t believe Lodwick’s going for it with a humeral fracture. Hope it’s just a “greenstick”. To the point: in 25 years of chiropractic practice, having known many patients who’ve suffered fractures (not at my hand I might add!) I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the rapid healing with the use of a supplement called Vegetal Silica made by Flora. I’ve witnessed bone callous formation and knitting in half the time in a broad spectrum of patient ages. You can get it at a health food store. One capsule with each meal for one month and you’re done. Another brand is “Dr. Barmakian’s Silica” and follow the directions on the bottle. This is a strange way to deliver unsolicited health advice, but time is of the essence. Best of luck!

  • Avatar
    Strider2

    January 22, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Congrats to everyone who made it, I can’t wait to watch the races!

    re: skierout,
    By that logic, the team would be even smaller, because they would only be focusing on people with an extremely high chance of medal contention. Obviously, that is not the point of the Olympics, nor do I believe that is what USST beleives or they would have selected even less athletes to go. Thus, there’s no reason to not fill the quota. As many people have previously mentioned the more people become “Olympians” the greater the positive effect on our ski community will be etc etc.

  • Avatar
    davord

    January 22, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Skierout, I am not sure that’s a reasonable explanation for not filling out the quota. Skiers named to this team (USST and non-USST) are affiliated with clubs in one form or another. They get coaching and service support from their coaches and service team(s). Who do you think coaches Kikkan, Sadie, and Erik? It’s Erik Flora and APU. Flora has been to quite a few WC and WSC races helping Kikkan and the rest of the APU team. Same thing with other club coaches that have had skiers at international competitions. A good example of that are the various Canadian WC events that have taken place over the past few years. Almost all skiers at these races have personal help. I don’t think that should be a worry. This is America, not Sri Lanka. Money shouldn’t be that hard to come by, especially at a professional institution like the US Ski Team. If you have a quota, you have to fill that quota, whether it’s 4 skiers or 24 skiers. Why have a quota at all, if it’s not gonna be filled out? Look at track and field. If there are 3 spots available, each spot is filled. Do you think the US T&F team will only have one male or female athlete competing in a 1500 m (example) race when there are spots for three in each gender? I don’t think so. If they don’t fill in all three spots in each gender, you can bet your life they will have problems. There would be a mutiny if that ever happened. When the US was struggling to get people in the top 50 at WC, WSC and Olympics, they maxed out on the quota. Now that the US actually has a number of skiers capable of doing big things at the biggest races, they don’t fill the quota. Russia and Norway have a filled out their quotas, each sending 20 athletes to Sochi. I am pretty sure Germany and Sweden (20 each) will do the same, as will Finland (19) and Italy (16). It doesn’t make sense not to fill that quota. IMO, it shows little respect to those racing the domestic circuit, who were good enough to qualify. To fill that quota, I would have gone with Bender, Gregg and Hanneman. Bender as the best non-USST sprinter and a national title, Gregg as the best non-USST distance skier and national title (and what a title it was!), and Hanneman who is in very good form, has solid points, a national title and two other podiums. In fact, anyone who wins a title at nationals, no matter the distance, should get a ticket. That’s what the Canadians did for Vancouver and it seemed like a pretty fair selection criteria. That means Rorabaugh and Ellefson should have also gotten a call, but I guess that would go over the quota.. Maybe we should bring back the Gold Cup. Remember that from 2002? I believe Wadsworth won that one. Win and you are automatically qualified.

    All of that said, it is a strong team, men and women. Youth and experience and a lot of talented, capable athletes. Good luck to all of them and perhaps America’s first XC medal since 1976 beckons…

  • Avatar
    sisutrader

    January 22, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    The US team is not filling all 17 slots for the Olympics? This is a horrible mistake. What could possibly be the reason to leave 3 people behind? This is not right. We need an explanation from the coaches.

  • Avatar
    banswe23

    January 22, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    It’s very important for everyone to realize that quota spots do NOT correspond to start spots. The US, like any nation, can only start 4 skiers of each gender in any of the 4 individual races, and one team sprint team (2 people), one relay team (4 people). Not filling the quota doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be any unused start spots – I expect we’ll see the US fill all its start spots. The quota is just the number of athletes the country could bring with them – those 20 Russians, Swedes, whoever – most of them are only going to get to start one race, and some of them might have to sit out all the races as alternates just in case one of the first-choice racers gets sick or injured. So when the US team doesn’t fill its quota spots, its not saying “we don’t think you’re good enough to even be here though we have open spaces”, its saying “our best athletes are well-rounded and will be racing multiple events, which unfortunately means that we don’t have starting space for any extras, and we don’t think you wanted to come to Sochi just to watch”. With 7 athletes of each gender, there are already 3 people who will have to sit out of each race, and while the men’s side may not have as much of a sickness/injury cushion, due to the specialization of the racers, the women’s team most certainly can cover last minute changes, since nearly all of them have proved themselves competitive in a variety of events on the World Cup. Support the rock solid team we have, and don’t ask for more people to be put in the position of frustrated spectators. As much as all of these skiers who nearly made the team were dreaming of Sochi, they most certainly were dreaming of racing at Sochi, not sitting out race after race watching.

  • Avatar
    markb

    January 22, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    I think that the explanation that you are looking for is mentioned in the article above, “The objective was to fill the maximum starts allowed per race, not necessarily the quota”. Each nation can field a maximum of four skiers per event.

    The fact is, we have reached the point where the limiting factor is the four skiers per event, not the quota. I think that most of the top nations like Norway and Sweden will not be filling their allotted quota either.

  • Avatar
    Strider2

    January 23, 2014 at 12:31 am

    banswe23 and markb
    yes, we are aware of the start spot limitation. However, take the women’s 30k skate. Gregg would be extremely well qualified to fill one of the 4 spots in this race seeing how the U.S. women’s team is pretty sprint heavy. Looking at the list I’m guessing Liz Stephen will fill one of the spots, then Bjornsen, then perhaps Diggins, leaving a spot for Gregg…

  • Avatar
    davord

    January 23, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Strider, probably not Bjornsen for a 30k skate. Had it been a classic race? Yes. Liz, Holly, Jessie and Caitlin would have been a great quartet for that particular race. Bjornsen will probably ski the sprint, 10k, one of the classic legs in the relay and perhaps the team sprint. It’s gonna be interesting to see who will do the sprints and team sprint. There are 5 sprinters fighting for 4 spots in the individual sprint and 2 spots in the team sprint.

  • Avatar
    Strider2

    January 23, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Davord, Yes, that makes more sense with Brooks instead of Bjornsen for a long skate race. Still leaving one spot for Gregg. Honestly, not sure who’s going to fill it without her. The sprint will be interesting. Very strong team. But one person will have sit on the bench… and several in the team sprint. The relay will be interesting as well. I’m guessing the team will be Kikkan and Sadie on classic, then Liz and Jessie on skate. I think they have a good chance of competing for a medal. 1st (Norway) and second (Finland) will be a long shot (anything can happen though), but third is certainly within reach with Sweden having difficulties on distance races and Germany being there or there abouts. Will have to watch out for Russia though…

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    Ben Arians

    January 23, 2014 at 2:19 am

    So, it looks like there was not much point in any women not already over in Europe even showing up to nationals.
    It’s great the US women’s team now has so much depth, but for Caitlin Gregg to be left off the team , it just seems like the team was predetermined. I agree with Tim that top 50 world ranking in either sprint or distance seems to go a bit deep for automatic team qualification. Hopefully the US Ski Team has a plan to add Caitlin to the team in the next few days.

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    petenewell

    January 23, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Fill the quota. The positive effect of Olympians promoting the sport is worth it alone. The weight that the “O” word carries is huge, and it sparks the passions of many who wouldn’t pay attention to the sport otherwise, not to mention the next generation of skiers. Do these constituencies care whether the Olympian they meet/hear about won a medal, or even competed at the games? Usually not. They are inspired either way- inspired by the concept of representing the USA on the world stage. Make it clear that the people in the last few spots will likely be warming the bench – my guess is that they will gladly go anyway. There is no way that the logistical ‘challenge’ of adding 3 people to the team outweighs the benefit of 3 more Olympians promoting XC. No way.

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    WI skier

    January 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Playing armchair coach, I would give Caitlin a start in the 30K if the country has 4 start spots. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was 2nd fastest on the team at a 30K freestyle. Other than race faster last year to have World Cup start spots at the beginning of this season, it doesn’t seem there was much Caitlin could have done to have a chance at the team. I don’t like the idea of so heavily relying on last year to determine this year’s team.

    I understand there are reasons not to fill all start spots to maximize medal chances, but it seems short sighted for the growth of the sport. Last year the long time team member, current Distance National Champion, and one of the top two distance skiers in the country at the time is completely cut from the team and now people who seem to be deserving of an Olympic spot are left home. If I was a young athlete and competitive in another sport I would think twice about pursuing cross country.

    If I was one of the bubble athletes I would be more than happy to take a spot on the team knowing I wasn’t going to get a start unless something like illness opened up a start spot. 80% of success is showing up, or something like that.

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    WI skier

    January 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Another thing to consider when deciding to fill the quota is impact on future funding both for USSA and individual athletes. This could leave a bit of a bitter taste in the mouths of those who supported athletes that likely would have filled the last 3 spots. Hopefully these people don’t take a “Whats the point” attitude.

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    Jake

    January 23, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I think it would be interesting for fasterskier to dig in to actually how much money the US Ski Team spends at an event like the Olympics. How much additional cash do they have to shell out per athlete? Is the Olympics part of their normal budget or do they get something extra? How much extra time do they spend per athlete on the team? What does it cost to bring somebody who will not actually race (see above – they can only start 4 per race). It says clearly in the article that their objective was to name a team that filled the start spots in every race but nothing more, so they can maximize the resources per person. It would be interesting to see what this would actually mean from a $ perspective.

    That being said, I suggest that out of only interest, not out of criticism. This is *clearly* the strongest women’s Olympic team we’ve ever had. Every woman on the team has had top-10 finishes on the World Cup; 9 out of 10 had top-10’s *this year*. We have an overall sprint world cup winner, we have world champions, we have multiple world cup relay medals. Its actually pretty ridiculous to consider the possibilities for this Olympics, and in my opinion the biggest way to promote our sport within our broader culture is to win the Olympics. I tend to defer to the coaches on the best way to accomplish that one.

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    Martin Hall

    January 23, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Time to chime in, as I see some of this whole process in a very different light then most of you—I’m a big points believer as my wife, Kathy and I designed the 1st points list back in the early to md- 70s in the US and then again in Canada in the early 80s. Big reason in the US, was because of the size of the country and trying to pick teams more objectively—it took a while to get enough cross pollination from one end of the country to the other so the lists that came out were more valid then just the coaches or some committee naming a team. Canada was a different reason, yes, it was a big country with the same problems, but when I went there in my 1st meeting with the athletes, there biggest complaint about the selection process for teams and trip,s was that it was too much politics and personalities in the selection process.
    The points now are a good selection criteria after all these years(very valid), especially now that the international team spends its winters in Europe and the domestics only get a shot at them is in the spring or if you are Continental Cup winner of trip to the World Cup for one period—that’s one guy and one lady each period—very small cross section. The history says that this process is not working–not for the US Team, anyway—but it is free—the FIS pays the bill or the organizers do.
    So, onward—I see the selection in a different light—57%of the men were picked by points and 0% of the women had that option—essentially that tells the women at home your international future is very limited. I’ve always been for filling the quota and still am–it has profound affects on the future of the program encouraging the fringe skiers that there is a chance for them–just think not more then 2-3 years ago all these young ladies and Hoffman where on the fringe-it encourages all the programs at home to row harder and you never know when and where that next skier is going to pop up. Yes, I’ve always believed the Olympics is also a development program—I’m sure I’ll get some back lash on that statement. Any time you can introduce a skier to the “big show” with the potential they will make it again in 4 years—-you have knocked down a ton of barriers they will not even see the next time. Also, there are 2 WSC in thos4 years—mini-Olympics!! The USOC is paying the bill, so you might as well spend there money.
    So, with this in mind, I bring forward that there are 6 events with 4 starters each—24 starting spots and with the addition of extra days the potential for some skiers to ski all the events—there will be a few that will try—but, they will compromise medals doing this—and every skier has their specialties. In looking to the US women’s team, they are not as strong right now as you might think, as Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornson, are big question marks. Holly has not skied to her potential since mid-winter last year and Sadie has been away from racing for close to 6 weeks–it has been a struggle for her (read her blog http://sadiebjornsen.blogspot.com/ –Jan 9th entry–“16 Days with 6 French Frogs”) and Holly hasn’t raced in 4 weeks. In listening to the press conference on SkiTrax for the naming of the team—a lot of the evaluation of who is skiing what event will come next week Feb1-2 in Toblach, Italty.
    Oh, discretion—after a few mishaps of using it on the marginal selectees, I changed my thinking and only used it on the top guys in case of injury or sickness , especially during tryout periods.. It might be good if it went the way of the dodo bird–extinct–with all the different ways now that there is to make a team. There were 10 athletes on this team that knew they had made 2 of the criteria to be named to the Olympic team last spring—it just had to be made official.
    We can sit here and try to guesstimate who is going to ski what events—-good luck–so, as not to look too dumb, at least wait until after Toblach.
    I hope you are getting the gist of what I think should be done here—stick to the points list and add Kate Fitzgerald and Caitlin Gregg. No more boys—-they’ve gone deep enough.
    Wishing the best to these athletes, the coaches, the technicians and all the other support people it takes to pull off the big show this next month. For you guys and gals that didn’t make it–it is only 12 months to the World Ski Championships in Falun—don’t let go all of what you have gained and learned these past years!!

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    JustinFereshetian

    January 23, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I didn’t fully understand the limitations they had for starts in each race initially so not using all their quota spots makes a little more sense, but still it’s possible that 1 of the 4 that they plan to start in a particular race could come up sick during the Olympics and not be able to race, then they would have to put together a less than ideal team since they haven’t made better use of their quota spots. You would think that there would be a back up plan so that no matter what happens they can know that they started the best possible people in the country for each particular race and not wonder what could’ve happened if they used additional quota spots to cover themselves. Because if a distance skier gets ill and can’t start the distance race but all their other distance skiers are already starting they would have to start a sprinter rather than another distance skier that hasn’t been named yet. Especially on the Women’s end this seems like it’s more of a possibility because the team is sprint heavy in general, so if one of the distance starters can’t race for some reason why put in a sprinter who probably wouldn’t be able to put in as good of a performance in a distance race as Gregg? This seems like a very possible situation since these athletes are stressing their bodies to the max which has an effect on their immune system. Also think of Petra Madjic in the sprint at Vancouver, she fell of a banking and broke multiple ribs and punctured a lung. Of course we all know that she stuck it out and still medaled, but who’s to say that some sort of accident won’t happen either? These athletes are among the best skiers in the world, but even the best fall down sometimes.

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    Karen Mannix

    January 23, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I always appreciate the points of view of Marty Hall and Tim Kelly. The points system seems both a valid and fair way to determine higher-competition eligibility, especially when World Cup points are virtually unavailable to domestic skiers who aren’t on the USST. This is especially true of Caitlin Compton, who is probably right now in her prime and is skiing very well. Going to Europe in the last WC period enabled her to race sprints (after travel fatigue), which are not her specialty (when compared to other USST women) but really gave her no avenue by which to compare her speed to any woman on the USST in a distance race. It frustrates me that women who are currently skiing well, and who have the FIS points to demonstrate that (Fitzgerald and Gregg) simply cannot be selected. This is due primarily to their inability to ski WC races and realistically compare themselves on that stage. If the USST sequesters itself in Europe every season (and I do support them being there) at some level it must also validate the points system at home, particularly at US Nationals. I agree with Tim Kelly, in that top 50 WC isn’t a high enough standard for Olympic selection. I would bet that Gregg, Fitzgerald and other high-ranking women would have welcomed racing with other USST women (or against them at US Nationals) to prove their worthiness of being named to the Olympic Team. As it is, we’ll never know if the US is actually sending its best and most-deserving female skiers to the Olympics, especially if the points list is ignored as selection criteria. We do have a deep quota, which the current and incredible USST women and men have helped to create through their quality skiing in the past few years. Kudos to them! But, to not fill the quota and maximize the potential talent at the Olympics isn’t a good precedent to set. To leave skiers at home who should be there because they have proven themselves at US Nationals is more than heart-breaking. To me, not having the real proving ground (e.g. world cup starts) that a non-USST skier apparently needs to have in order to be considered for Olympic selection, doesn’t guarantee that we’re taking our fastest skiers to Sochi. In other words, if you can’t race where you need to in order to be considered, of what value is the points system and of what value is it to best a field by several minutes at US Nationals? Clearly, points were used for men…they had to be simply because WC rankings weren’t part of the mix. For women, if you didn’t have the opportunity (and not just one or two races) to become ranked on the World Cup, your points and your level of competitive ability at US Nationals was fairly worthless.

    Needless to say, I wish the USST athletes the best success possible. I follow you, I am up late at night “watching” you race, it is a very exciting time for US Nordic skiing…but the “system” in this selection process hasn’t played out fairly for domestic skiers who are clearly NOT on the bubble, and specifically Caitlin Gregg. I would venture to suggest that in one event, the 30k Skate, she could ski on par with the best USST women. I’m so sorry she didn’t get the chance.

    Reviewing the selection process is important for growth of US skiing. Filling quotas is worth discussion as well. I am very psyched about the US women’s team in particular…it is an amazing group with more potential than ever…but I also believe a couple more could have joined you and added strength to the team.

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    Tuck Miller

    January 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Nothing I have read changes my mind that the omission of Caitlin Gregg and potentially two other athletes is an insult to the entire US Nordic community. It is the greater US Nordic community that actually supports and funds skiing in this country. As a parent, USSA certified official, race director, fundraiser, team director–I put more effort and money into skiing then I ever did as an athlete. I, along with countless other people just like me, make the clock tick. We do this so that we can develop the children in our families and communities and allow them to grow up to be great human beings. My small town of McCall, Idaho has done it’s fair share of development over the years and we are extremely proud of all our Olympians even though none of them has ever medaled. They are an example of what happens when communities across America unite to provide for our families and in return they inspire us with their Olympic spirit. Our communities live through the results of our children and we are justifiably proud of their accomplishments. Having been an athlete for many years, I know and appreciate the effort of our skiers. But it pales in comparison to the decades that so many parents, volunteers, coaches and communities have poured into our sport.

    We, the greater skiing community, are the ones who determine qualifying criteria, we are the ones who support athletes so they can race over the years increasing our Olympic quota, we work and raise the money so the athletes have a chance at qualifying and attending the Olympics–not the USST. It is us, the paying volunteers, who actually make this sport happen. We do not do all we do so that the Olympic quotas we earned can go unused or that performances like Caitlin Gregg’s go unrewarded.

    We, the greater skiing community, picked up the athletes when USSA did not pay their Super Tour award money–we picked them up and got them back on track. We, the greater skiing community, put on races at a financial loss so that our skiers can get placing and qualifying points for the Olympics–I suspect every Super Tour Race is put on a loss to the respective community, so we have to go into that community with hat in hand and ask for businesses and individuals to sponsor these USSA events. We do this gladly knowing that our children will have the opportunity to fill the quotas we have earned. And business owners and individuals do this to help skiing gain recognition when our athletes get some recognition for their national and international performances.

    We, the greater skiing community, revel in outstanding performances and we demand that those athletes be rewarded for their efforts. This is the case of Caitlin Gregg. I stood on the trail at West Yellowstone in November, with split watch in hand, as Caitlin put the hammer down. I repeat–her distance, freestyle performances are the finest I have ever witnessed–and I stood trailside in Seefeld in 1976 when Bill Koch won a silver medal. I have been to thousands of races across the globe as an athlete, coach and parent since that time so I know of what I speak.

    I am penning a letter to the CEO of US Skiing demanding to know why this charade of an Olympic qualifying criteria was visited on our skiing community. The lack of transparency by the USST is an insult to our efforts. Failing to reward outstanding performances is not why we have toiled in the trenches all these decades.

    Two arguments I do not buy: 1. The addition of three more athletes will disrupt our ability to medal. Norway and Russia just named full complements of 20 skiers–these two nations top the list in Nordic Olympic medals. The largest number of US athletes competing on any day at the Olympics will be eight on the individual sprint day. All other days will have a maximum of 4 athletes competing. If the USST is having difficulty managing this number of athletes please have the coaches return to Junior Nationals and learn from the coaches on JN sprint day with 50 athletes in three completely different races when it’s every klister in the box.
    2. We don’t have the money. We are raising of millions of dollars across this country every year for our clubs, national teams, World Junior teams etc. We will deliver the money gift wrapped to wherever it is required for the Olympics.

    Our communities have done this decades and we deserve the recognition of having produced skiers on Olympic teams. Our Olympians are validation of the decades of hard work we have put forward.

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    xcmyers

    January 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Agree completely with Tuck Miller. Let’s fill the quota!

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    timg

    January 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Amen, fill the quota!!

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    teamepokeedsbyn

    January 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    [Note: This comment has been edited to remove an expletive. Please refer to our Commenting Policy]
    Seems just stupid not to fill an Olympic quota, given IOC provides a lot of the funding. Further, using a top 50 WC standard is much to narrow, perhaps narrowing to top 25 (i.e. actually possibly can compete for a top 10 on a given day), and fill the remaining slots based on percent back (read FIS points) and a trials (like most sports in the US).
    USSA really needs to answer with a good reason why they will not fill the quota and allow these athlete’s to compete, given they qualified based upon a criteria (FIS points). Really, just making an Olympic team is a defining event in an athletes life, and will be proudly placed on their job resume for the rest of their life. Come on Luke B., fill the damn quota, and give these athlete’s a break … how does sit hurt the USSA (was Luke even ranked top 50 on the WC when he was named to the Olympics?). Perhaps one of the FasterSkier readers knows a good reporter for a major media outlet who might be interested in this controversy. Maybe even one who worked for one of USST Trustee Mr. Gary Black’s family news papers would be a good choice 😉

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    trsk8

    January 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I would hope Fasterskier (or somebody else, if Fasterskier just can’t do it) would do an article going in depth on the Caitlin Gregg snub. This story has a lot of interesting angles and seems very important to nordic ski community generally.

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    zachhandler

    January 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I agree 100% with Tuck Miller on this. Everyone I know in the ski community feels the same way. This whole thing feels like a slap in the face to all the volunteers that make skiing happen in this country (Though obviously it was not intended that way). The reality is that our success on the international stage is primarily dependent upon the work of parents, volunteers, and donors at the local level. Our success is not primarily dependent upon having a maximally exclusive elite team. If anything, limiting our Olympic team to those athletes with a real chance to medal is going to make our nation weaker when it comes to nordic skiing. The main limitation on our international success is not the minor hassle of putting one more skier on a plane to Sochi, or of having the wax tech lube up one more pair of boards, or of having our national coach pay attention to one more athlete. Our main limitation is our ability to get kids into the sport in the first place. The route to success in this sport is and always has been one of expanding and cultivating the base with a growing pool of talented young athletes. This work is not done by the US ski team. This work is done by parents, volunteers, and donors at the local level. They are competing against basketball and hockey, and in this age of increasing specialization, football, baseball, and soccer. We are not norway or sweden. By and large kids do not grow up in this country dreaming of being a superstar ski racer. The dream of being Michael Jordan or Adrian Peterson or Mia Hamm. Maybe the US team has lost sight of this fact with their recent international success? A selection process that seems capricious, unfair, and overly exclusive really sends the wrong message. I know military analogies are overused, but here goes: This is a battle that is fought in the trenches, not in the captains quarters. The trenches are not a wax room on the world cup circuit. The trenches are in a middle school somewhere in the vanishing snow belt of the northern USA. Nothing rallies the troops like having an athlete from their state or region make the Olympics. Unfortunately several opportunities to do just that were just wasted. In fact, the opposite message was sent out. In the trenches right now, the troops are very deflated.

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    longtimer

    January 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    re: trsk8’s comments (#50 on an in depth article)
    With all due resect to Fasterskier for what they do with keeping us informed, and for providing a venue like this forum, I don’t see that happening. The FS of the past 4-5 years has been pretty bland, they like their sponsorships and don’t want to rock the boat. Likewise, the coaches from USST will circle the wagons, and athletes are only going to say positive things. Their future depends on it. A more independent journalist or magazine/newspaper would have to do the work. Would definitely like to see that as well.

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    Ben Arians

    January 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I too would welcome an in-depth article on the team selection. The USST has it easy compared to countries like Norway whose programs receive far greater scrutiny by far more people and by publications with far greater circulation.

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    coskier

    January 23, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Interesting column in the December 13, 2013 Aspen Times on this very issue. Many of the same USST players are discussed.

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    tclaynm@juno.com

    January 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Great comments and discussion on this issue! Tuck Miller, Karen Mannix, Tim Kelly, Marty Hall (and others) — very informative and interesting comments. I REALLY hope someone at USST hears all of that and does something about filling the quota. It seems like those 2 or 3 skiers that were left off all have at least one event where they fit perfectly. There’s certainly nothing wrong with who they did choose, but it’s who they didn’t choose that is not settling well…

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    nate

    January 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I have yet to see one person who thinks that Caitlin Gregg should have been left off the team, or even one person who thinks that she would not have been one of the 4 fastest women in the 30k skate. When I think about the starters it is obviously Liz, but then someone please list the 3 other skiers you would start in front of Caitlin, and which distance skate races they have skied lately that show anywhere near the potential of Caitlin’s National Champs race. This is no knock on the skiers we do have going. As has been pointed out they all have top 10 WC races in the past 1.5 years and we actually have medal threats in a number of the shorter races (and possibly Liz in the 30k), but it is a sprint-heavy team and Caitlin is a proven skier in a long skate race.

    The bigger issue is filling the quota, and I agree that there are many possible benefits to the ski community as a whole to filling the quota, and I don’t see ANY negatives. As has been pointed out, filling the quota doesn’t affect how many skiers are racing on a given day, so there is not a huge difference in the wax tech’s responsibilities. I suppose with the US team keeping to themselves in Europe all winter they might fear adding an outside skier might mess with their well publicized “team chemistry”, but if they don’t think they can handle outside skiers and play well with others then the chemistry is not that strong. I really feel for Caitlin, Kate, Matt, Sylvan, Reese or whoever they would have chosen if they would have filled the quota. It feels like an opportunity missed.

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    AnonAmos

    January 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I can sympathize with Mrs. Gregg’s plight, but the institutional, systemic barriers to opportunity in this sport go much further than that example. Just look at the team picture. Any African-Americans? Native Americans? Asian-Americans? Arab-Americans? South Pacific Island-Americans? Australian-Americans? What was criterion #2 for other than some affirmative action??
    If it’s any solace, Caitlin, expect to have more street cred when you return to life and work in the ‘hood. You go, girl!

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    hujk

    January 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Caitlin Gregg should be on this team.

    Best American 10 k finish at Vancouver – she is fitter and stronger than 2010. She also has the emotion of having her husband on the team. What great PR for the Americans – a husband and wife team originating from opposite ends of the US – Washington State and Vermont. She won US nationals by almost 4:00.

    PR aside – Caitlin is the best American distance skier with the possible exception of Liz. With all due respect to Liz, she bombed in Vancouver. At least with Caitlin in the 30 K we will have very credible back up. Caitlin will not disappoint you, in fact she will make you guys look like geniuses for adding her the last minute. Why not give her a chance- you have 2 spots open

    She won US nationals by almost 4:00. Conditions at Soldier Hollow should be similar to Sochi.

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    4skiers

    January 24, 2014 at 12:47 am

    It’s clear that there are many passionate and committed ski fans in the US! And I agree with the importance of the grassroots support that has helped bring the US from a non-competitive country in the cross-country ski world to a respected Medal threat in any World competition. But the fact is that this grassroots support was marshaled and organized in to a coherent force by strong leadership from the US Ski team, with a vision that completely changed the game in the past four years.
    For too many years the US was choosing its Olympic Team by simply plucking the skiers who were skiing the fastest right before the Olympics. This was an unqualified disaster. It did not lead to medals, and it did not lead to inspiration in the communities by committed skiers who were able to make a career out of skiing for the USA. It provided virtually no press for Cross Country skiing (because there were never any exciting results to report) and no momentum for young skiers to follow.
    Over the past four years the US Ski Team has focused on a path of development that has paid off in the strongest team that the US has ever brought to an Olympic competition. It has also brought unprecedented visibility to US Cross Country Skiing which has led to much stronger funding for developing skiers which will lead to a larger base of future athletes. As much as we would all like to think that it’s all about the Olympic participation, and more participants will lead to more skiers, that is simply not true. Bill Koch did more for Cross Country skiing in the US with a single Olympic medal than all the “participants” in the 30+ years after him.
    The USSA has been perfectly clear about the Olympic criteria. They have said all along that they would not necessarily fill their quota spots. They said that discretion and then FIS points would determine remaining positions after automatic qualifiers. There is no way for this Olympic team to be picked without many people crying foul. “They didn’t use discretion when they should have. They used discretion and picked favorites. The World Cup athletes had an unfair advantage.”
    Germany just announced that their Olympic Team. They filled 15 of the 20 spots they had allotted. Some talented skiers were left off the team. I’m sure their supporters are unhappy as well.
    Being committed to the Olympic dream now takes more than being the fastest skier at a single National Championship. It takes the commitment to the level of international competition that will ensure your ability to stand at the start line completely prepared for what you are about to experience. There are countless US racers who have earned start spots at World Cup and World Championship races through excellent domestic racing, and found that they were not prepared to compete at that level. Caitlin Gregg is one of them; she has had multiple World Cup and World Championship opportunities, and has only finished in the top 30 once. Most recently, she did not even finish a 10K in Poland. This is not said to diminish Caitlin’s excellent skiing at Soldier Hollow, but to demonstrate that claims that she would clearly be a top US skier in the Olympic 30K are not necessarily well founded.
    There is a reason that the Nordic Combined team chose to put Todd Lodwick on the team even with a broken arm, passing over a less experienced Brett Denney. Skiers who have demonstrated the ability to compete successfully at an international level are a better bet than ones who have not. Especially in a complex setting involving Olympic pressures and a very foreign country.
    This is why the US has focused on World Cup experience over the last 4 years: to bring the most talented and prepared team possible to the Olympics. And they are doing just that. This is not an exclusive club; anyone can join it by skiing well enough and consistently enough domestically to win World Cup start rights, and then performing well enough at those starts that they are invited back. That is exactly how most of the Olympic Team got to where they are. But that is a long term commitment; not just to an Olympic Year Dream, but to the 100% committed day in and day out life of a World Level athlete. It also takes a commitment to finding sponsors, writing for grants, and fundraising year in and year out.
    My heart goes out to those skiers who have chased the Olympic Dream and found that the door was closed just before them. They have worked hard and deserve our respect and congratulations for their efforts. I hope they are inspired by the example of Brian Fletcher, Nordic Combined, who had that same experience four years ago. He proceeded to achieve World Cup success over the next years that moved him well off the bubble and on to a key position on the team. It can be done; there are no “unfair advantages;” but it is not easy or always smooth. Good speed to all.
    Now it’s time to get past our hurt feelings and throw our support behind our Olympic Team, who also deserves our respect and congratulations.

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    davord

    January 24, 2014 at 1:31 am

    4skiers, I think it’s the clubs that have had more of an influence on skier development than the US Ski Team. The biggest thing is that there is a good number of talented skiers who are working hard, love the sport and are pushing each other to be the best they can be. The clubs are the ones bringing up these skiers to the world stage. I know the US Ski Team always wants to take all the credit for great results, and put the blame squarely on others when the results are less than desirable. I just hope it’s not politics that kept a couple of athletes from making the team. Why do I say that? Because it’s happened before.

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    nexer

    January 24, 2014 at 7:53 am

    @4skiers. If you got on a plane the same day after racing hard and flew half way around the world you’d probably feel it. Did you consider that before you chastised her?

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    Tuck Miller

    January 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

    @4skiers. I have no stake in Caitlin Gregg making the Olympic team–but the point we’re trying to make is that if her performances were not good enough this Fall, nothing was going to be good enough to place a domestic female on the team. USSA gave false hope when there was no chance of making the team and we could have all just stayed home. Switch and bait–just race hard and there’s a chance–no not really. Yeah, I know all about the journey and such but let’s face it every skier dreams about the Olympics and that dream had zero chance of being realized this season unless you were already overseas–the community deserved to be told such so we could have planned lives accordingly.
    Just a recap of Caitlins performance over the first two months of the season. She won the qualifier and every heat in the Supertour in West, next day won the 10K F by 1:21. Won the 20K F at nationals by 3:36. Never placed lower than 3rd in any Supertour race this season.
    I agree there’s no way to make every one happy in the selection process. But a whole lot of people would be a whole lot happier if we used the quotas we earned.

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    trsk8

    January 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Germany is taking more skiers than the US? Hmmm…. It seems to me that 4skiers is actually arguing that it is important that we exclude skiers who are not on the World Cup team, in order to require or incentivize World Cup participation. Is that smart? Couldn’t we emphasize World Cup experience but also add qualified domestic skiers if they are very strong? I don’t think that could hurt the US effort, and allowing a second path to the Olympic team might make a lot of skiers work hard and build the relevance of US racing. I also think it is too bad when any sport separates its top group from everybody else. This professionalization of the sport probably creates a stronger top group, but it hurts the soul of the sport and hurts the community. We should be sending our team out to the world, but we shouldn’t build a wall between that world and the rest of US skiing. As to whether Caitlin Gregg would be good enough for the Olympic 30k, I think it is important to note that she didn’t just blow away the competition at Nationals, she did it at West Yellowstone, too. She is skiing beyond anything she has done in the past, at least in this long distance skate discipline. It is hard to compare that to the World Cup team, in part because there aren’t many long skate races–actually, in reviewing the team’s results over the last year, I don’t really see any.

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    nate

    January 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

    4skiers: You say that top results at the Olympics should be the goal of naming the Olympic team, since that is what will inspire the sport. So again, which 3 skiers (besides Liz) have shown better distance skate results to prove they are the better choice than Caitlin?

    But then you say that skiing fast in an Olympic year is not enough. That “skiers who have demonstrated the ability to compete successfully at an international level are a better bet than ones who have not.” Caitlin was the top US skier in the 10k skate at the last Olympics, plus previously was top American at the biathlon World Champs. What about those results, plus this year’s National Champs does not demonstrate an ability to step up on the big stage?

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    teamepokeedsbyn

    January 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Seems to me the important issue is the USST needs to present a good argument why not fill the available quota, and not why a particular skier is named (or not). if there are available spots, and a person is next in line based upon published standards, they should be added to the roster. Based upon past results against a full field, our chances of a medal in a women’s distance event are certainly there, yet small, and extremely slight in a men’s distance event, thus, anything beyond a sprint event is really likely about participation, and being named to a (career defining) team. The chances of a skier becoming sick during Worlds or Oly’s is high, and has happened in the past, so why not have a full roster?

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    nexer

    January 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    ^^^ They can offer an explanation, but there is no justification for allowing athletes to think they were racing for a spot when there was no intention of filling that spot or deciding not to fill the spot after the fact, especially since the difference between the skiers was a statistical deadheat.

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    Jake

    January 24, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    @Tuck and others: you’ve failed to acknowledge that the US Ski Team women have been racing all fall and winter too! It wasn’t a bait and switch – the women in Europe have just been absolutely KILLING it on the World Cup. Obviously Kikkan, Liz and probably Diggins were foregone conclusions for making the team, but I would say that Bjornsen, Sargent and Caldwell were all very much questions marks and they all clearly demonstrated their ability to compete on the international level. I believe all but Holly Brooks have nabbed top 10’s on the World Cup this year, and despite what some people have commented here, most have been competitive in both sprints and distance races. Caitlin Gregg clearly did all she could, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough because it is just damn hard to get international starts as an elite US woman right now, especially if you’re over 30. You have to have spectacular results in the few opportunities that you get racing head-to-head against the US ski team, and/or win the SuperTour and kill it during your period on the world cup. Holly Brooks successfully executed that (though I expect she’ll have to have some results yet this year or she’ll be out), but Caitlin has not. Aside from these disappointing World Cups just now, the last time she raced against the US ladies that have been in Europe this winter was last spring at SuperTour finals and they all beat her (all who were racing – Sargent and Brooks were not). In the mass start 30k skate. The Olympics selection wasn’t a bait and switch or a conspiracy or a controversy – if any of them had faltered and failed to make the objective criteria for the Olympics I expect she would have made the team ahead of them.

    The coaches provided an explanation for the selection, and I believe it is perfectly valid:
    “The objective was to fill the maximum starts allowed per race, not necessarily the quota.”

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    WI skier

    January 24, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    ^^I would rather have skiers who are skiing fast this season on the Olympic team than skiers skiing well last season. I think that is one of the issues with the current system. Team selection ends up being largely based on who was fast last year and has World Cup starts this year. I don’t think Caitlin has had a chance to show what she can do in a freestyle race against the US Ski Team members since last season. This is one of the reasons why I like the change to only Top 20 WC skiers get in, the rest have to race there way in through Nationals or something similar to give more people a chance to show what they are made of at the moment instead of last year.

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    nycxcskier

    January 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    i think Jake (comment#67) makes a strong general point but he is generalizing a bit more about Caitlin1s case than he should be ..

    She/ Caitlin is a Skate technique -marathon specialist … And those races she did in the World Cup were all short and both she & Brian were coming off a very draining whirlwind trip from just winning their distance medals at the Nationals in Utah , to hurry over and race again right away in sprint races that they dont even claim to have any real convictions in ever generally … Still its clear that Catilin improved alot after the next weekend in Poland where she only just missed qualifying for the quarter finals in that World Cup with a time slotting just outside in 34th Pl… Best to Look at Catilin Gregg`s sprint effort results compared to other skiers like Justyna Kowalczyk , she/Justyna failed to qualify top 30 for the quarters in Czech either but im sure still in all her specialty events is still considered a real threat to medal at the Olympics next month..

    For the 10k classic technique( not at all her specialty) race where Caitlin stopped i think she finally just hit the wall and even before it started , where Brian had already too since he did`nt even get outta bed to start in that race …

    So sure certainly Caitlin is no sprinter specialist racer like most all of the U.S.A. womens team , but i think among them 7 who are chosen for Sochi only Liz Stephen might be better than her in any hilly race over 25k at this point next month,… Caitlin doesn’t need to do any of the other Olympic events at all but i say at least give her that one 30k skate race start at the games if USA has upto 4 skiers allow for on that start line ?! I Kinda would really like to see the men`s National distance champ Sylvan Ellefson on the start line too in the 50k skate. he did crush Kris Freeman and everyone else that day in Utah.. So cant even argue his race was missing out on anything at all there!

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    jan_jansen

    January 25, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I’m confused. I thought that the American Birkiebeiner was the only criteria used to determine Olympic teams. This would make very much sense to me because the American Birkiebeiner is about the same timeframe every year as the long distance event, and therfore would show who is able to race fast at the “prime time” for skiing events. Shouldn’t we be looking at the past few years of Birkie winners to see who should be doing the “capstone” Nordic skiing event?

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    JSPierre

    January 25, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I guess I’ve got a long way to go then to realize my dreams. I’m watching an Arby’s commerical sitting in hotel room waiting for the Itasca JOQ to start. Which might take a few weeks. Why do we race in such freezing cold weather? Every time I wath the world cups I see the ‘big guns’ racing in what looks like tshirt weather. It would be so much easier if I could race in nice temperatures all year long, because my exercise induced ashtma starts getting to me at about 20F or so.

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    jan_jansen

    January 25, 2014 at 12:32 am

    @JSPierre you obviously haven’t been around very long. I’ve raced a Birkie when it was so cold I doubted weather the race was legal. It probably wasn’t, I lost two toes in the process of finishing! But I perservered, and was rewareded for my efforts with an Age Group ranking far higher than ever before and that I’ve ever come close to since!!

    I applade you for going to JOQs, although as discussed above you won’t get very far unless you’ve got a support network that can get you to the European racing circuit. Clearly no one has made the jump from domestic racing to the international scene before, so I hope that you’ve got parents with deep pockets or at very least some generous benefactors that can help you out. If not, then good luck with racing fast one year, then keeping yourself on the USST while you’re overseas adjusting to strange hotels every week and different cultures just as frequently.

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    nexer

    January 25, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Did anyone look at the splits at Nationals but Caitlin was keeping up with the boys for two laps until she decided to dial it back.

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    ratherbecatskiing

    January 25, 2014 at 12:47 am

    @jan_jansen the race you are referring to is the American Birkebeiner. You are adding extra letters to the name of teh most hallowed race amongst the vast majority of us on FasterSkier. Birkiebeiner is a monstrosity that has plagued us for more than one generation, “the Birkie” is the shorthand version of the full name. That being, the armchair quarterbacks, the Monday morning coaches, those of us who don’t truly comprehend what exactly goes on behind the Cera F curtain. We can speculate all we want, but really what it comes down to is that the team was named for what it was, with good reason undoubtedly. I mean, there are objective criteria to be evaluated, but they don’t take into account anything that you or I might notice such as this person can ski very well on fresh-pressed corduroy like in the Birkie, but when it’s a lap race and the course has been skied in so-and-so will drop by 15s each Km. Or maybe you can follow someone for 49.5K, and then pass them when you see Main Street, but you get shoved out in front at 9K and then crumble when you hit the wal, yeah, you can’t find any objective way to judge that.

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    JSPierre

    January 25, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Okay. So my coach told me that we’ll be lucky to race tonorrow since it’s supposed to warm up to about legal race temps for a bit and then go back below it. Like I said before, I can’t race well in super cold temps, and I’m concerned about making the Midwest JO team this year since it’s come down to this wekend.

    My big thing is that I’m a super big fan of Sylvan (like everyone, duh!) and I’m wonderign why he got left off the team? It seems like he skied fast at SoHo, right? I watched the live splits online, and I was cheering super hard the entire time, watching everyone come through and seeing the gaps. Why was he left off the team? That kinda seems like they’re out to get him. I mean, he’s a super nice guy and everything, and he won a race out there, so why isn’t he going to the Olympics? I don’t really get what the thought is with it.

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    sammylj

    January 25, 2014 at 12:59 am

    you’ve got a lot to learn, JSPierre. Maybe you should brush up on the “nice guys finish last” phenomenon a bit more.

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    JimGalanes

    January 25, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Lots of strong and passionate ideas have been expressed with many diverging opinions. I am not going to second guess the coaches and team officials. It is their job to apply the selection criteria. Nor am I going to question not filling the quota as I can see many sides to this issue. My point team officials are going to take flak no matter what they do, so the should do what is right!

    The selection criteria was published well in advance so while some may view it as unknown, they all should have know what their odds where. Not very good unless you are on the World Cup! That is the way the criteria is structured. The first tiers of selection are based on world cup performances. The final selection is based on FIS points which, I agree with Marty Hall is a very valid way to evaluate athlete performances.

    From my perspective the US Ski Team has shaped there program as an international team and that is important. This path has proven successful on the world cup, yet the effects on long term sport development in the US are unknown.

    I think there are a couple of additional drivers here that need to be considered.

    1. Some years ago the USSA/USST moved nationals to early January, presumably to make it easier for college skiers to get to the event and grown the size of the event which would make it a more viable event. The current timing of nationals will of course mean our top skiers will not be there. Virtually all other ski nations have there nationals at a slightly later date and the top skiers are all there. I believe there should be one time per year where the top skiers from the country are competing head to head and not at the spring series.
    2. As many have suggested and I agree the top 50 standard on the world cup is to liberal for for automatic selection. I would cut it in half! In my mind the top 50 is not a high enough standard to justify excluding domestically racing athletes who may be skiing as well.
    3. The FIS points list is a valid system for selecting and beats the heck out of discretionary selection. With everyone at nationals for a couple of races skiers like Caitlin Gregg would have a chance to score even better points as the penalty would be lower. Then if she blew away the field, as she did, there would be no question and her FIS points would reflect the performance.

    Yes, I know there are a lot of reasons for not doing it this way. The top skiers would have to travel back to the US, the might have to skip are world cup race or two, as many already do, and so on…However, skiers who leave nationals, fly to Europe for a world cup race a few days latter are pushing even greater limits to try to improve FIS points and make the team.

    In my mind my Nationals should mean something in this country. Not to take away or minimize anyones performances, but having the top skiers there would add credibility to those performances. I think our domestic skiers need a national championships that is fully attended by our top skiers to keep the development moving forward.

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    shreddir

    January 25, 2014 at 1:47 am

    Coach Grover:
    Here’s how you can silence all these SuperTour homers complaining about Caitlin not getting a quota spot. By now she and Brian should be over their jet lag. Since she’s going to stay in Europe while he preps for Sochi, stick her on the start list for Saturday’s 10:30 am 10k classic race. Yeah, I know she’s better in freestyle, but if she’s peaking fitness wise, tell her “you need to be top 40 at the finish: to be on the Sochi squad. You can’t be finishing behind a bunch of Chinese, Moldovan, or Romanian skiers…OK?” If she can do this you must get her a quota spot. I don’t want to hear some lame objection like “well it’s too late, we made hotel reservations in Sochi already, the van’s full…etc.

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    T.Eastman

    January 25, 2014 at 1:51 am

    Thanks for the perspective Jim, I have always thought the Nationals should be a keystone event.

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    mr.gayasaids

    January 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

    First off, @jan_jansen, are you related to Solid Gold Dan Jansen? Because if you are, that’s freaking awesome.

    Second, @nexer, are you for real? Don’t quote me on this, I might be wrong, but I think she got tired…

    Third, @JSPierre, I think instead of watching, and dreaming of, Arby’s, you should consume more Kashi cereal. It’s a well known fact that eating a box of cereal with Kikkan on it can boost internal temperatures to make racing in the cold bearable, it’s like having your own spirit animal to guide you. Also, according to NOAA, race time temps should be legal. Have fun.

    Lastly, @nycxcskier, good job on pulling comment 69.

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    rollinglikeachola

    January 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

    First off, @jan_jansen, are you related to Solid Gold Dan Jansen? If so, you are awesome.

    Second, @JSPierre, instead of watching Arby’s, you should eat some Kashi cereal. It’s a well known fact that consuming cereal with Kikkan on the box will increase your core temperature and race faster, it’s like having your own spirit animal to guide you. Also, according to NOAA, Coleraine should get up to legal temps for race time. Have fun.

    Third, @nexer, are you for real? don’t quote me on this, I might be wrong, but I think she got tired…

    Lastly, @nycxcskier, seriously, great work pulling off comment 69.

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    highstream

    January 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Not filling the quota makes sense if it means not having skiers sitting around, feeling wonderful about the Olympics atmosphere but lousy, if not resentful, about not being allowed to ski. That happened at SLC with some of the younger skiers and certainly didn’t help their confidence or careers.

    Looking from outside and at a distance, it appears to me that the USST coaches decided to go with Randall, Diggins, Stephen and Brooks in the 30k skate and not give Caitlin false hope, or create even possible morale problems, by having her there as an alternate (that’s not to suggest Caitlin would herself create any problems, but her very presence along her record this year could). They are there to medal (or place high) and don’t want to risk distractions (or unnecessary labor). Another way of saying it is they don’t see the difference between likely performances by Brooks and Gregg to be clear enough to change course from the direction they’ve been going with the World Cup team. Plus, it doesn’t seem they prepared the ground for a switch of that kind with Brooks. I can understand that point of view. I just hope they understand fully what message it sends back home (maybe re Jenny Bender too). If the men’s World Cup team weren’t so thin, Brian Gregg probably wouldn’t have been chosen either.

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    4skiers

    January 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you highstream for giving a clear explanation of the problems with naming skiers just to fill a quota. I was wondering why Randall was not being counted in previous posts as an obvious choice for the 30K when she has won the past several long distance races at Spring Series, proving her distance chops among US women. She may not be a medal contender in that race the way she is in sprints, but has shown that she can put in a very respectable performance at a World Cup long distance competition as well.

    Regarding the message that is sent back home by the USSA choices: I encourage anyone reading these posts to go to the NNF site and read the blogs that the U18/U23 skiers are sending home from Italy. In particular, read Annie Pokorny’s blog https://www.nationalnordicfoundation.org/2014/01/5789/
    Our developing skiers are inspired and proud to be American skiers. They now believe that anything is possible. There is no “wall” between the World Cup skiers and these skiers; Annie spent the summer at SMS training with Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins, Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell, as did Ben Saxton. Visiting skiers from other clubs joined them from time to time. They all helped coach the younger kid’s camps and did a lot of K’s with the younger skiers. The same thing is happening across the US, supported by excellent club efforts to integrate the various levels and provide increasing development opportunities to better prepare our athletes for the new levels of achievement that we have stepped up to.

    Finally, Statistical Skier provided a well written and logical analysis of the Olympic nomination situation that removes the emotion and looks at the facts. The assessment is dead on. Read it at
    http://www.statisticalskier.com/2014/01/the-caitlin-gregg-situation/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheStatisticalSkier+%28The+Statistical+Skier%29
    or just click on the link from Fasterskier blog posts.

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    texana

    January 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I don’t care.

    My next ski equipment purchase will be heavily influenced by the manufactures who best support youth skiing. It’s not about few who make the team or the one that wins gold, it’s about the thousands who learn to love the outdoors as children.

    I’d love to see our rock-star youth coaches getting pro-form deals and posters in the ski shops of the youth skiing programs they support.

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    glund

    January 26, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I am amazed. Why 7 men and 7 woman. That makes no sense at all when we have available slots vacant.

    During the last two WC seasons the US women’s x-c team have performed better than any time in US ski history. They have earned the respect, admiration and friendship off all the other WC competitors.

    The men have done OK but their performance surly lacks the glory and PR value to our sport the women have provided us every weekend the last two years. The depth of our woman’s team has been duly noticed on front pages of Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish newspapers. I stay up at night listening to the Norwegian WC TV reporters. They talk about the emergence of Kikkan, Holley, Sadie, Liz, Jessica, Sophie and Ida as a x-c miracle. We now have probably the 4-5 ranked woman team in the world. They have won more podium positions and WC points the last two seasons than any other US WC team in history. In doing so they have shown a unique team spirit and joy of skiing that warms my heart.

    Regardless of what the “point team officials” and rules of gender equality dictates, basic common sense tells us that the US women have performed significantly better than the men over the last two years. They have fairly earned 2 more slots on the Olympic roster.

    Picking two more women for the team is the right thing to do.

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    bellasuma

    January 26, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Here is my 2 rubles worth. When I first read about the US Olympic Team XC roster, I was incredulous. I thought, stoli moley, the USST really opened a can of tsardines on this one. Naming only 14 athletes, that’s Bolshevik. Bodensteiner and company must be Putin me on. They can’t be siberious. Not naming other bubble athletes to bolster the ranks against sickness or injury is crimeanal. There is still time to name additional athletes. So quit Stalin Whitcomb. Grow some Cossacks. At the very least, lend credibility to US Nationals and add all national champions not already named. The proof is in the Putin. I am not Yelsin at you nor am I being tsarcastic. From the above comments, many USST fans are having a Moscow over this whole issue. I don’t mean to sound like another Lening. I hope my comments are not Sochizzy. Finally, to all the athletes. I wish you all well. Kick some Cossacks and Krushchev it!!

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    trsk8

    January 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Having read and thought about all the arguments (and the things posted elsewhere–Statistical Skier put up a graph that was not very useful, I thought), I still am troubled by the direction indicated by the omission of Caitlin Gregg. A couple thoughts: (1) FIS points are obviously not a very good way to structure a team. A lot of apologists for the decision-makers have applauded the objectivity of this approach, I think because in some past years people complained about largely subjective choices. But the points clearly don’t give good information about a skier’s current strength or specialty. It would be foolish for the US track team to pick its marathon participants by looking at their results in mile races. And at least in track there aren’t two very different techniques, as in skiing. Objective measures are only good if they objectively indicate the quality you are looking for. The points argument is a bureaucratic idea that avoids the fundamental question. Here, the question is really who would be best to skate the 30k. (2) It is counter to the idea of competitive sports to rely too much on old results. People change. Some get better, some worse. Selection has to be based on an idea of the current state of things. Otherwise, why race at all? (3) It isn’t true or sensible to say that the team made clear what the path was long ago, and it requires World Cup participation. The selection criteria wisely include discretionary selection so that fast skiers can make the team with domestic performances that don’t generate points differentials. Several men skied onto the team at home. The structure is obviously there to be used when it is smart to use it. To me the question is, could the number four skier on the 30k at the Olympics, whoever it will be, have skied with Caitlin at Nationals or at West Yellowstone? And I honestly don’t know the answer. Maybe someone could attempt to look at it statistically or in terms of speed over similar skate courses. This would actually be objective. Is the team looking at it that way? Or is it just being loyal to the hard-working, committed and generally awesome World Cup group? As much as this seems honorable, in this context it is bad. It is a snub of anyone outside the anointed group who tries to pound on the door to get in. Because in sports, it should be about performance.

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    joeconn4

    January 26, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Up in post 69 nycskier hits on a point that I agree with regarding Sylvan Ellefson, who I think made an even stronger case to be named to the US Olympic team than Caitlin Gregg did. A big part of this is situational (because the skiers named to the women’s team were not at US Nationals whereas some men were), but I still see it as a valid argument in Ellefson’s favor… In the 30k skate mass start Ellefson beat 4 men who were named to the US roster (Freeman, Gregg, Bjornsen, Koos). Ellefson also beat Gregg in the other distance race at US Nationals (15k classic individual start) and was only 8 seconds behind Freeman in that race (plus Ellefson made up 37 seconds on Freeman the last 5k of the 15k).

    Head to head results, to me, should carry more weight than they did in this selection process, when they are relevant like at US Nationals for the men this year. I won’t argue with the choices the coaching staff made because I think this is an extremely strong team with tons of potential to medal in pretty much any event. But it’s got to be frustrating for a guy like Ellefson looking at the results sheet from US Nationals.

    With the stated goal of “fill the maximum starts allowed per race” at Sochi, Ellefson’s results from US Nationals look to me to definitively put him in the top 4 for the mass start skate race along with Hoffman, Gregg, and Freeman. Based on US Nationals, where they all raced, Bjornsen is off that group, but he’s the guy I want starting in the 15k classic and perhaps the relay.

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    joeconn4

    January 26, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Editing my last paragraph before I get called on it…Hoffman did not race US Nationals, but if healthy I see him being our best hope for top results in the 50k at Sochi.

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    joeconn4

    January 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I see a lot of comparisons above to the way other racing sports choose their Olympic teams…track, swimming, etc. The big difference with XC skiing is that for those sports when you have an Olympic Trials everybody who wants to compete for a spot on the team is there. When’s the last time someone got a spot on a US Olympic team in track or swimming on a discretionary coach’s pick or off a performance list based on previous results? I’m sure there are examples, but I can’t think of any unless you go back to the men’s marathon teams from the 1960’s. That’s why I like what Tim Kelley wrote way up in post 17. I don’t think we’d be approaching 100 posts if automatic selection was limited to those in the top 20+/- on the World Cup lists and any other spots were dependent on results at US Nationals or the Super Tour or some combination thereof.

    To go along with that you’d need to write in objective criteria for results at whatever selection races you were using. Like in track, an athlete knows if they go to the US Trials and finish in the top 3 (and the IAAF “A Standard” criteria is met) they make the team. You don’t go to the US Track trials wondering if 3rd place in the 1500m is going to make the team, you know that’s what it takes, either get it done or don’t.

    Again, I’m not trying to debate or discredit the selection of the US Nordic coaching staff, I think they did a good job and picked athletes who will perform well and place highly. I’m just trying to advance the conversation about the best way to select the team.

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