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U.S. Ski Team nominates 13 fewer alpine athletes for 2014-15

Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn consult during training in Soelden. GEPA/Andreas Pranter

Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn consult during training in Soelden. GEPA/Andreas Pranter

Perhaps what is most surprising about the U.S. Ski Team alpine nominations for the 2014-15 season is not the list of athletes who have been offered spots on the team, but rather, who was left off. The household names of Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, and Mikaela Shiffrin are a given. But developing athletes who are working their way up the ranks face nomination criteria hurdles at every level. This year the number of skiers who have not been reselected, and who in many cases fell painstakingly close but still shy of the requirements, is extraordinary.

A whopping 19 members on last year’s U.S. Ski Team roster have found themselves missing from the 2014-15 nominations. The national team will shrink from 53 total athletes to 40 (16 females, 24 males), making the total yield 13 fewer skiers. Last year’s A Team carried 14 nominated skiers while next season’s will have 13. The B Team grows from last year’s 16 to 17 in 2014-15. So the greatest bloodletting has occurred with the C and development squads from 2013-14, where only 8 of the 23 have either met published criteria or qualified via injury discretion.

The named women’s development team for next season, Stephanie Lebby and Breezy Johnson, will continue to train and compete with members of the National Training Group (NTG) as they did last winter. New nominees on the men’s side include development team athletes Erik Arvidsson, Sam Morse, and Kipling Weisel, three juniors who excelled from club programs last year.

But what is to become of the developing talent pool washed away by, in almost all cases, adhering to strict nomination criteria without utilizing coaches’ discretion?

“A lot of the athletes who have been cut, we’re still going to provide them with a lot of training opportunities, racing opportunities, coaching. We believe those guys can get to the level they need to be at to be on the national team,” noted head men’s coach Sasha Rearick. “There are certain athletes who have been cut [in the past] and made it back onto the team. … depending which level they’re at, these athletes are going to have the opportunity to train with the Europa Cup tech or speed team and have full access to training camps as long as they are committed to working hard and making progress.”

Invitees to camps and projects will have to pay their own expenses, but members of the C and development teams (and in some cases the B Team) have also paid annual team fees in the past as well. Some may opt to continue competing with private clubs or coaches or may even enroll in college programs.

“If they feel they need to find other training camps or other coaches to make the gains to get back to that level, I fully support that. We’re currently talking with some of those people right now and want to put together the best plan for the athletes,” Rearick added.

Two cases where discretion did come into play were for veteran speed skiers Marco Sullivan and Steven Nyman. Given their respective birth years of 1980 and 1982, they were required to meet A Team criteria of either a 2014 Olympic medal or one top-25 discipline ranking on the World Cup Start List (WCSL). Sullivan finished the season 28th in downhill while Nyman was 35th, but they have been nominated to the B Team based off of coaches’ discretion.

“The guys who we’ve named to the team I feel are our best and most consistent performers at every level. … They’re the guys who are executing, getting the job done this past year and in years prior. Marco Sullivan, you look at his career and what he’s done for American ski racing and also the year he had last year where he was consistently skiing pretty well, at the same time got unlucky in a couple races, just off the mark. He’s still top 30 in the world. For sure, he has 100 percent support of the entire group of guys to be named to the team,” said Rearick. “And Steve Nyman, in a similar situation. He was skiing well early in the season, took a big crash and was a little out of sorts but came back skiing stronger. Both guys, when you look at their historical performances over the years, they’ve built up a credibility that we fully support them being named to the team.”

Resi Stiegler, whose career has been marred by injuries followed by valiant recoveries, struggled to find the flow last winter. Her best World Cup result was 14th in the Are slalom, and she finished the season ranked 30th on the WCSL, five positions short of being renamed to the national team. Despite her World Cup podium result in 2012, two top-20 results in 2014, and a standing in the top 30 in the world, she was not granted a discretionary selection after 13 years on the U.S. Ski Team.

Downsizing the national team at the end of an Olympic cycle, when sponsorship dollars are frequently at an all-time low, is nothing unique to America. The Swiss, who rely heavily on regional teams working as feeders to their Europa and World Cup squads, cut their total national team by eight heading into next year. It may be lower than 13, but the Swiss already have an existing infrastructure in place, their regional team system, to absorb the same caliber of athlete the U.S. team cannot carry next season.

While details of the future of the individuals who have not been renamed to the national team remain to be fully revealed, the selection criteria for 2015-16 yet to be published could prove critical to the decision making process for several of those athletes.

 

U.S. Ski Team 2014-15 Alpine Nominations (all teams will be officially named in the fall)

A Team

David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, Colo.) Crested Butte Ski Team

Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, Calif.) Mammoth Mountain Ski Team

Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah) Snowbird Sports Education Foundation

Tim Jitloff (Reno, Nev.) Park City Ski Team

Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) Park City Ski Team

Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) Rowmark Ski Academy

Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.) Carrabassett Valley Academy

Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo.) Burke Mountain Academy

Leanne Smith (North Conway, N.H.) Mt. Washington Valley Ski Team

Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/Buck Hill

Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, N.Y.) New York Ski Education Foundation

B Team

Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, N.Y.) New York Ski Education Foundation

Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.) Cochran’s/Mt. Mansfield Ski & Snowboard Club

Nick Daniels (Tahoe City, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Mark Engel (Truckee, Calif.) Sugar Bowl Academy

Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation

Abby Ghent (Edwards, Colo.) Ski & Snowboard Club Vail

Colby Granstrom (Lake Stevens, WA) Mission Ridge Ski Education Foundation

Nolan Kasper (Warren, Vt.) Burke Mountain Academy

Anna Marno (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Paula Moltzan (Lakeville, Minn.) Buck Hill/Ski & Snowboard Club Vail

Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah) Park City Ski Team/Sundance Ski Team

Laurenne Ross (Bend, Ore.) Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation

Brennan Rubie (Salt Lake City, Utah) Snowbird Sports Education Foundation

Katie Ryan (Aspen, Colo.) Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club

Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Jacqueline Wiles (Aurora, Ore.) Pacific Northwest Ski Association/White Pass Ski Club

C Team

Katharine Irwin (Vail, Colo.) Ski & Snowboard Club Vail

Nicholas Kraus (Northboro, Mass.) Stratton Mountain School

Lila Lapanja (Incline Village, Nev.) Diamond Peak Ski Team/Sugar Bowl

Development Team

Erik Arvidsson (Woodside, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

Ronnie Berlack (Franconia, N.H.) Burke Mountain Academy

AJ Ginnis (Waitsfield, Vt./Kaprun, Austria) Green Mountain Valley School

Sam Morse (Carrabassett Valley, Maine) Carrabassett Valley Academy

Kipling Weisel (San Francisco, Calif.) Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation

Breezy Johnson (Victor, Idaho) Rowmark Ski Academy

Stephanie Lebby (Big Bear Lake, Calif.) Squaw Valley Ski Team

 

Alumni (not selected) 

Michael Ankeny

Jack Auty

Will Brandenburg

Kieffer Christianson

Robert Cone

Daniel Duffy

Drew Duffy

Samuel DuPratt

Tanner Farrow

Erik Fisher

Julia Ford

Will Gregorak

Robby Kelley

Wiley Maple

Megan McJames*

Brian McLaughlin

Keith Moffat

Foreste Peterson

Resi Stiegler

Sandy Vietze

* While Megan McJames competed as a member of the 2014 Olympic Team, she was not a member of the 2013-14 U.S. Ski Team.

Article edited on May 8, 2014 after the U.S. Ski Team amended its published nomination list.

 

CJ Feehan

Web Editor

As a USSA Level 300 alpine coach and race official, Feehan spent over a decade training U14-FIS aged athletes at some of America's preeminent ski academies – Burke, Sugar Bowl, Killington – before joining the staff at Ski Racing as Web Editor. She resides in Burlington, Vt., when not living out of her duffel bag.

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