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Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:46:35 +0000

1989 Gold Caps McKinney Career

It seems ironic that a ski racer who won 18 slalom and giant slalom World Cups in her career would reach a penultimate gold medal by virtue of a single downhill finish. That was the story of Tamara McKinney’s brilliant World Championship title in 1989 at Vail.

Throughout the ‘80s, McKinney stood out as one of ski racing’s biggest stars. After a podium finish in her very first World Cup in 1978 at the age of 17, she went on to win 18 World Cups – all slalom and giant slalom – and claimed three crystal globes. Her historic overall title in 1983 was the first for an American woman.

The drama of that 1983 World Cup overall crown played out in Vail. Earlier in the week, GS wins by teammate Phil Mahre in Aspen and then Vail had given him a third consecutive overall World Cup crown. Then, in a hard fought battle with her own teammate Cindy Nelson, McKinney claimed a GS win of her own in Vail and seemingly the title. But upon further review, it wasn’t quite enough to clinch. She would have to travel to Furano, Japan to seal the mathematics and take the overall title over Swiss Erika Hess, including a win in the final race of the season.

But her career had also been marked by injuries and tragedies, and just plain bad luck. Coming into the 1989 World Championships at Vail, in the twilight of her career, she was still looking for her first major Olympic or World Championship event win.

The U.S. Ski Team came into Vail on the heels of a medal-less Olympics in Calgary. After missing a medal in 1984 at Sarajevo by a single place, McKinney’s luck went south leading into Calgary, suffering a broken leg early in the season. While she came back to make the Olympic team, she failed to finish the GS or slalom.

Now, at the age of 26, the Kentucky-born skier from Squaw Valley was motivated to give it one more try to win a Championship title.

In a bit of unusual scheduling compared to today’s standards, the 1989 World Championships opened on Jan. 29 with the first half of the women’s combined – the slalom. The downhill was four days later.

McKinney took a huge first run lead over Swiss Vreni Schneider, but gave it up in the second with Schneider leading by .12. The more important data was the spread to the top downhillers – over two seconds to Austria’s Petra Kronberger and three back to Anita Wachter. Still, it would take a career best downhill from McKinney if she hoped to win.

McKinney’s career had been etched as a technical skier. She skied downhills as a part of combined and had achieved three World Cup downhill podiums -– the most recent five years earlier – and a pair of World Championship combined bronze medals. Still, it was a daunting task.

Race day dawned cold and windy. At nearby Beaver Creek, men’s downhill training was blown out that day. But the women were ready to race for gold down International in Vail.

McKinney watched and waited. As expected, Swiss Vreni Schneider kept her slalom lead followed closely by teammate Brigitte Oertli, rocketing into second from nearly four seconds back.  Starting 16th, McKinney put her downhill poles over the start wand and pushed out – the final chance in her career to win a major title.

The eyes of America were on Tamara, arcing high speed turns in a bid for glory. “She had gold in her eyes when she sped past me,” said U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach Paul Major. In the finish, the Swiss leaders held their breath – longing for silver and gold, but also knowing what this single run meant to McKinney.

McKinney had skied with confidence in the training runs leading up to race day. And while she lacked the experience of the Swiss and Austrian downhillers she faced that day, she skied with heart and pride in a final attempt to show that she was best in the world.

All down the course, McKinney’s split times told the story – she was in it, challenging Schneider at every interval. The noise from the American crowd was deafening. “I could hear the crowd all the way down,” she said in the finish.

As she crossed the finish line the clock told the story. Tamara McKinney was a World Champion. Despite the frostbite on her left foot from the Combined Slalom, the tears began to flow.

“Oh, my God,” she exclaimed. “I’m still trying to figure out what I did.” In an act of true sportsmanship, her rivals and fellow medalists Oertli and Schneider lifted McKinney on their shoulders. And there wasn’t an athlete in the finish that wasn’t sharing in the pride of Tamara McKinney – one of the greatest ski racers of all time.

McKinney went on to win bronze in the slalom to close out the 1989 Championships and her career. Today, the Hall of Famer looks back fondly on a star-studded career from her home near Lake Tahoe. Her trophy case displays a lifetime from the faded red ribbon and medal her mother saved for her since she won it at age four, to the gold and bronze medals McKinney won in Vail.

She remains very engaged in the sport as a coach and a parent, watching young daughter Francesca make her way up the ranks. And she carries with her the memory of that day in Vail when she became a World Champion.


Wed, 16 Jul 2014 21:53:15 +0000

Athlete Spotlight: Laurenne Ross

A talented musician as well as a ski racer, Laurenne Ross is a four-discipline threat both on and off the snow with incredible talent on violin, piano, guitar and vocals. After a slower than normal start to the 2014 season, Ross picked things up in the run up to the Olympics and then posted a season-best 11th in the Sochi downhill. With a World Cup podium under her belt and Olympic experience, Ross is looking to continue her success in 2015 with the highlight being the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships at Vail/Beaver Creek.

ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT

Name: Laurenne Ross

Sport: Alpine skiing

How/when did you decide you wanted to compete: Around age six, when I raced down my first course

Biggest accomplishment in your career so far: 2nd place at the World Cup Downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Favorite moment from Sochi: Standing in the start gate on the first race of the Olympic series

Goals for next season: To stay healthy and happy, enjoy every moment I have on the snow, and compete at the highest level in all the World Cup speed races

Favorite snow destination: Mt. Bachelor, OR

Favorite non-snow destination: Pretty much anywhere in Spain

Favorite candy: Reese's cups or Snickers

If you weren't a professional athlete what would you be: A lifelong college student

If you could have dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be: Bill Nye the Science Guy

One thing you can’t live without: Music

Favorite USSA athlete outside your sport: Kelly Clark

Advice to others who want to follow in your footsteps: Creative imperfection, observation, imagination, and passion can together generate potential and ideas you never imagined possible


Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:48:24 +0000

Stacey Cook Helps Promote Olympic Values at 54th IOA in Greece

Winning is important, but respect for diversity is the true meaning of the Olympic Games.

That was the message at the 54th International Session of the International Olympic Academy (IOA) for Young Participants. In June, two hundred participants from 96 countries congregated in Ancient Olympia, Greece; among them was the U.S. Ski Team’s Stacey Cook.

The speed team veteran “took a chance,” not really knowing much about the program, hoping to take advantage of a summertime trip to Greece. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of her life, she said.

Read more at : http://skiracing.com/stories/stacey-cook-helps-promote-olympic-values-at-54th-ioa-in-greece/


Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:05:40 +0000

TAKE 5 with U.S. Ski Team’s Andrew Weibrecht

When our youth athletes strive to achieve their personal best, victory is won on and off the hill. Encouraging our kids to set individual goals and focus on maximum personal effort benefits both the player and the team – in a variety of ways.

Athletes who come to realize that personal development can be even more rewarding than a win are mastery-focused athletes who build the confidence and initiative needed to succeed – in sports and in life.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports sat down with U.S. Ski Team star Andrew Weibrecht to get his thoughts on personal bests and personal records.

In our exclusive TAKE 5 interview, Andrew told us that he has always been “very aware” of personal bests and personal records.

“It is a little bit more difficult to quantify results in ski racing as you would in other sports, but I was always very focused on the quality of my performances and was definitely aware of the good versus bad,” said Andrew, who won a Silver Medal for the U.S. in Super G at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Andrew said that many of his personal records and goals have been “process-related” due to the nature of his chosen sport.

“They would often be more related to learning and becoming proficient at certain skills that then translated into better results,” said Andrew. 

Coming off his success at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Andrew says his goals remain similarly structured and focused.

“My goals moving forward are very process-based,” said Andrew. “I’ve always felt that it is more important to look at the sport in this manner rather than just focus on the results, because with a sport like alpine skiing, you are not trying to necessarily “beat” another person as you would in, say, tennis.”

Andrew added that if he could encourage young skiers to focus on just one particular personal record or goal, it would be quite simple.

“I really believe that the result is generally the last thing that matters if at the end of the day you can truly feel as though you put your best effort forward,” said Andrew.

To read the full TAKE 5 interview with Andrew, visit ResponsibleSports.com. And come back next month for another exclusive TAKE 5 interview!

At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of responsibility shown by people every day. We created Responsible Sports, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display responsibility. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the hill.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.


Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:10:31 +0000

Jules’ Women’s Downhill Gold Medal Picks

She may be one of the top contenders for gold, but four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso knows who her top competition will be come February. Check out her top picks to contend for the Raptor downhill podium.

Lara Gut (SUI) - She is a technical risk taker and this is just her kind of hill. She proved she could ski this hill fast in last years World Cup test events and will be tough again.

Anna Fenninger (AUT) - Anna is coming off a strong season she will be gunning for medals in Beaver Creek. Her technical skills are also in the favor of this hill.

Lindsey Vonn (USA) - Lindsey will be looking for her home hill comeback after a couple of unlucky seasons off. She has the skills and the will power to leave it all on the hill.

Tina Weirather (LIE) – She skis great technically and on the gliding turns, so she will be able to pick up any time lost on the steep pitch. She also missed the Olympics so like Lindsey, will be extra motivated to lay down a fast run.

USA Girls - We will only have four starting spots, but you always have to root on your hometown heroes! We get to train on the hill before hand so all the U.S. ladies will have a good shot at doing well on the Raptor. In addition to Lindsey, Laurenne Ross, Stacey Cook, Jackie Wiles, Leanne Smith and Alice Mckennis will be in the hunt for a start.

And of course, I will be gunning for them all!!!


Mon, 07 Jul 2014 21:29:24 +0000

Raptor Downhill is the “Real Deal”

BEAVER CREEK, CO (July 7) – When Granite Stater Leanne Smith (N. Conway, NH) took her first lap on Raptor – the brand new Audi FIS Alpine World Cup women’s downhill and speed host for the 2015 World Championships – she knew right away it was the “real deal.”

“Our eyes were wide when we trained on it two years ago, but there was a lot more big eyes when we raced it last year,” said Smith. “This downhill is the real deal, but in a good way. I think it’s going to be one of the more popular downhill’s on the women’s World Cup tour.”

A perfect compliment to the men’s Birds of Prey race hill, but with it’s own unique DNA, Raptor utilized the natural terrain of Beaver Creek Resort to tap into every element of modern downhill racing.

“It starts with a cool gliding section and kinda lets you set up for what’s to come,” added Smith. “Which is to say the entire middle section where you’re basically never on a flat ski. It’s really important to know what it feels like in there because there's quick switches, off camber turns and it’s super steep in spots.”

Following the technical middle section, the course mellows out with more rhythm that allows the racer to focus on their tuck before diving over a huge jump toward the shared Red Tail finish.

“It’ll be a crowd pleaser, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “We know that when we get there for World Championships the snow is going to be firm and you have to be on top of your game. It's going to come at you quickly and you'll have to be really dynamic in your skiing.”

Smith, along teammates Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA), Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) will have run the course more than a handful of times prior to the World Championships thanks to the World Cup test events and previous training camps.

But when the Champs open with women’s downhill training runs on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, it has the potential to be the first time down for Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) and St. Anton downhill winner Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO). For them, all three scheduled training runs will be critical. 


Mon, 07 Jul 2014 21:14:33 +0000

Nine U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Athletes Nominated for ESPY Awards

PARK CITY, UT (June 30) – The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will be the most represented sports organization at the 2014 ESPY Awards with nine Olympic athletes nominated in five categories. Sochi gold medalists Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO), David Wise (Reno, NV), Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) and Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) are each nominated for two awards with Shiffrin up for Best Female Athlete, the top women’s honor. Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT), Kaitlyn Farrington (Bellevue, ID), Joss Christensen (Park City, UT), Sage Kotsenburg (Park City, UT) and Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) also received nominations. Fans can submit their vote for the awards at http://espn.go.com/espys/2014/.

HIGHLIGHTS

Nine U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association athletes have been nominated for five categories at the 2014 ESPY Awards.
The USSA as a team has more athletes and is nominated in more categories than any other professional sports organization.
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO), David Wise (Reno, NV), Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) and Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) are each nominated for two awards.
Kelly Clark 9West Dover, VT), Kaitlyn Farrington (Bellevue, ID), Joss Christensen (Park City, UT), Sage Kotsenburg (Park City, UT) and Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) also received nominations.
The ESPY Awards are based on fan voting. Fans can submit their vote for the awards at http://espn.go.com/espys/2014/.
The ESPY Awards will take place on July 16th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

QUOTES

Tiger Shaw, President and CEO, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
It is an honor to have so many of our sports acknowledged in this year’s ESPY Awards. Each of these athletes is outstanding in their own right, but it was their performance as a team that led to our success in Sochi. We are proud to have these athletes representing the USSA alongside some of the greatest professional sport athletes and teams in the United States.

2014 ESPY AWARDS

Best Female Athlete/Best Female U.S. Olympic Athlete – Mikaela Shiffrin
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) went from a rising star to one of the best ski racers in American history in a matter of years. In 2013, she became the first U.S. slalom World Cup champion since Tamara McKinney in 1983-84. She backed it up in 2014 with title number two by notching five wins. Shiffrin became the youngest woman in U.S. history to win a World Championship and the youngest athlete in history (male or female) to win an Olympic slalom gold medal.

Best Male Action Sports Athlete/Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete – David Wise
The 2014 season was another standout year for halfpipe skier David Wise (Reno, NV) with gold at the Winter X Games, gold at the FIS World Championships, silver at X Games Tignes and winning a sixth U.S. National Title. He then topped it off with an AFP halfpipe title. Wise continued his stellar performance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, becoming the first-ever Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe skiing.

Best Female Action Sports Athlete/Best Female U.S. Olympic Athlete – Jamie Anderson
After earning a silver medal in slopestyle snowboarding at X Games Aspen, Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) came out on top at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, winning the gold medal in slopestyle snowboarding’s debut.

Best Female Action Sports Athlete/Best Female U.S. Olympic Athlete – Maddie Bowman
In 2014, halfpipe skier Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, CA) earned four podium finishes at five of the Olympic qualification events (two of them were wins). Before heading off to Russia for the Games, Bowman bagged her second-straight X Games gold medal in Aspen. At the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, she put down two unbeatable runs to take home the first-even gold medal for Olympic halfpipe skiing.

Best Female Action Sports Athlete – Kelly Clark
A three-time Olympic medalist, Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) is a dominant force in the world of halfpipe snowboarding. After winning gold in 2002 and bronze in 2010, Clark easily qualified for her fourth-straight Olympic team and brought home a bronze medal from Sochi.

Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete – Joss Christensen
Going into the 2014 Olympic Winter Games as an underdog, Joss Christensen (Park City, UT) threw down two amazing runs to win the first-ever gold medal for men’s Olympic slopestyle skiing. He led fellow Americans Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper in a podium sweep, marking only the third time in Olympic Winter Games history that the U.S. swept a medal event.

Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete – Sage Kotsenburg
After a strong showing during the 2014 Olympic qualification process, Sage Kotsenburg (Park City, UT) walked away from Sochi with the first U.S. Olympic gold medal of the games and the first-ever Olympic gold medal in snowboarding slopestyle.

Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete – Ted Ligety
Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) backed up his historic 2013 season with an Olympic gold medal and World Cup title in 2014, once again solidifying his place among the all-time greats. His Olympic gold medal from Sochi made Ligety the first man to win a giant slalom gold medal, which also marked him as the only man in U.S. history to win two Olympic gold medals in alpine skiing.

Best Female U.S. Olympic Athlete – Kaitlyn Farrington
After winning the final event of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix and securing her spot on the 2014 Olympic team, Kaitlyn Farrington (Bellevue, ID) earned the halfpipe snowboarding gold medal in Sochi.

 


Fri, 27 Jun 2014 20:06:46 +0000

TAKE 5 with U.S. Ski Team’s Drew Duffy

It's exciting to watch our children excel at the sports they love. Working hard toward a personal best or perfecting a specific technique are critical to success, but let’s also remember that playing multiple sports can be tremendously beneficial in the long run – and a lot of fun for our kids.

Branching out from just one sport offers youth athletes both physical and mental benefits, from enhancing current skills to learning to appreciate the new skills required by a different sport.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports sat down with U.S. Ski Team standout Drew Duffy to get his thoughts on playing multiple sports.

In our exclusive TAKE 5 interview, Drew told us that growing up, he played “several” sports, and took a particular liking to soccer and lacrosse. Drew said that those two sports helped improve his overall physical fitness, as well as his quickness – and also aided greatly with his mental training.

“These other sports definitely helped with my mental game,” said Drew. “Lacrosse and soccer are a lot longer than a ski race, obviously, and they take a lot more mental toughness.”

Drew also shared his story of how, when and why he decided to specialize in skiing and ski racing in this exclusive interview.

“I decided to stop playing soccer early on in high school,” said Drew. “My senior year, I decided not to play lacrosse, because I had to train for the tryout camp in Park City and Mammoth, and after that, I made the U.S. Development Team. I missed not playing lacrosse, but I’m glad that I committed to my dream of making the U.S. Ski Team.”

To read the full TAKE 5 interview with Drew, visit ResponsibleSports.com. And come back next month for another exclusive TAKE 5 interview!

At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of responsibility shown by people every day. We created Responsible Sports, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display responsibility. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the hill.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance Company


Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:05:13 +0000

Men's Tech Reboots at Mt. Hood

GOVERNMENT CAMP, OR (June 19) - The U.S. Alpine Ski Team men's technical program took it back to basics last week with athletes from across the country, working to elevate the nation's technical skiing ability. Audi FIS Alpine World Cup athletes David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO), Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT) and Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA) along with the U.S. Ski Team National Training Group and top U18, U16 and U14 athletes particpated in a week of fundamental slalom skills focused drills and free skiing on the snowfields at Mt. Hood. 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The men's U.S. Alpine Ski Team particpated in a week-long fundamental skills camp with the National Training Group and top U18, U16 and U14 athletes from across the country.
  • The goal of the Mt. Hood camp was to eleveate the level of technical skiing across the nation by utilizing free skiing and gate drills.
  • The first task of the project was to identify the six fundamentals of slalom skiing: balance and position, outside ski to outside ski (independent feet), upper body stabilization, early lower leg activation, snow contact and pole plant.
  • The benefit for the younger skiers was to integrate with elite level athletes, but even the national team members like Olympians David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO) and Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT), demonstrated vast improvement over the course of the week.
  • Head Coach Sasha Rearick cited Chodounsky and Kasper, as well as Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA), Kieffer Christianson (Anchorage) and Drew Duffy (Warren, VT), as some of the top athletes who made major positive changes in their skiing over the course of the project.
  • Post camp, the athletes moved directly to a conditioning camp at the Center of Excellence in Park City, UT.
  • The next on snow camp is slated for early August in New Zealand. 
  • The 2015 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season opens Oct. 25-26 in Soelden, Austria and the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are scheduled for Feb. 2-15 in Vail/Beaver Creek, CO.
  • Ski Racing Magazine is on site at Mt. Hood and contributed to the content of this story. Read an extended story at www.SkiRacing.com.

QUOTES
Nolan Kasper

It was a great opportunity to see the next generation of skiers coming up in the country. Being able to work with them was really rewarding, and I think for some of the athletes they were able to see the guys who they’ve looked up to or are maybe going to have to chase down in the future. Everyone is working together to try to make skiing in the U.S. better.

Even when I was on the development team I never really had the opportunity to ski with the best slalom skiers. I remember the first time I trained with Ted and Bode was when I qualified for the World Cup. Now we’re doing a lot more integration between the teams and working with younger athletes.

Sasha Rearick, Head Coach
We’ve fallen off the mark in the technical disciplines, slalom and GS, without a doubt. I watched the skiing at Nationals and fundamentally, in the tech disciplines, we’re not where we need to be. I chose slalom because it’s where we’re probably farther off but it’s also where the fundamentals can be built more easily (than GS). In slalom, the type of exercises we’re doing here are much more athletic and are easier to focus on. Without a doubt, the skills that we’re learning here will transfer to GS.

We’ve been setting everything from one meter brushes (picket fences) where they’re doing it on GS skis or slalom skis—with poles or without poles—one ski, two skis—to 18 meter really turny slalom or paneled slalom, and training the entire gamut in between on very short courses with a maximum of 20 turns. 


Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:05:07 +0000