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Marolt looks to make good on "Best in World" slogan

With an immensely successful season behind and an Olympic season on the horizon the Czar of the U.S. Ski Team is content with letting the chips fall where they may. … As long as they fall in the team basket along with a bunch of gold, silver and bronze medals.

“Raising the bar,” has been a catch phrase under the administration of team CEO and President Bill Marolt. Say what you will – and there are a great many people with strong opinions of the man – Marolt has succeeded in raising the bar. About the only catch phrase left that hasn’t been reached is the “Best in the World” mantra that arrived at the team with Marolt in 1996.

That’s what’s on the line in this, his 14th year in office.With an immensely successful season behind and an Olympic season on the horizon the Czar of the U.S. Ski Team is content with letting the chips fall where they may. … As long as they fall in the team basket along with a bunch of gold, silver and bronze medals.

“Raising the bar,” has been a catch phrase under the administration of team CEO and President Bill Marolt. Say what you will – and there are a great many people with strong opinions of the man – Marolt has succeeded in raising the bar. About the only catch phrase left that hasn’t been reached is the “Best in the World” mantra that arrived at the team with Marolt in 1996.

That’s what’s on the line in this, his 14th year in office.

Marolt has not been shy about putting up goals and goading the team into striving for them. In 2002, the last time the Olympics were in North America, he boldly predicted the team would collect 10 medals. The media laughed. The staff gulped. The athletes rolled up their collective sleeves and bingo bango, the Salt Lake Games resulted in 10 medals for the U.S. Ski Team.

Marolt hasn’t made any predictions for 2010, but he has put up a carrot for the athletes, staff and media to chew on.

“You all know what the vision is,” he says. “To be the best in the world. That hasn’t changed. That will continue to be the spark that drives us.”

In other words, get more of the 2010 Olympic medals in the snow sports than any other nation; More than Norway, more than Austria. Truly be “The Best in the World.”

No small feat. But Marolt thinks the time is right to achieve the goal.

In 2009 the team produced 14 World Championship medals. Calling them surprises would be a stretch, because it took a lot of work to get them and the progression has been visible. But in the Nordic World Championships U.S. athletes garnered six medals and that’s roughly three times more than the rest of history combined. Let’s just call it a break through.

In addition America has the undisputed best female alpine racer in the business in Lindsey Vonn and has a rich history of medals in the newer disciplines of snowboarding and freestyle skiing.

Despite the loss of alpine director Jesse Hunt, Marolt feels “the coaching is strong,” and the opening of the “Center of Excellence,” is without doubt a huge feather in the ski team cap.

Hunt, who announced his retirement after 16 years with the team in a variety of management positions, “clearly leaves a vacuum,” Marolt states flatly. But he has four unnamed candidates and expects to be able to announce a replacement in “a few weeks.”

The Center of Excellence, though, is the ace in the hole. Combining the staff offices with state of the art conditioning facilities allows athletes from different sports more opportunity to mingle with each other and with staff. It keeps everyone on the same page. It helps build teamwork.

Marolt says he believes there might be a comparable facility in Europe, but adds there is none better. Other sport National Governing Body organizations have already asked about using the facility that opened last month.

In the meantime ski team athletes have been quick to take advantage. That’s part of the reason Marolt can say, “we have momentum.”

In keeping that ball rolling, he has granted his department directors (one each for alpine, Nordic, freestyle and snowboarding) more authority so decisions don’t have to lose opportunity as they meander up the chain of command. For instance, each director has been on the ground in Vancouver’s Olympic venues arranging housing for their athletes that fits their specific needs. In 2006 those decisions had to go through upper management and resulted in less than ideal accommodations.

“With an NGB as big as ours,” Marolt says, “each (discipline) is a program onto it self. … I didn’t need the lag in the time between when we needed to make a decision and when that decision was implemented.”

The goal “is to create a sense of urgency. It is all out. The time is now.”

The last time the Winter Games were held in Canada was 1988, centered in Calgary. U.S. skiers were not in the same league as the elite competitors and the results confirmed it; no medals. These days “Best in the World,” is not a laughing matter.


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