U.S. team may use Austrian-style training run showdown for Torino spots


U.S. team may use Austrian-style training run showdown for Torino spots{mosimage}CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy The U.S. Ski Team may use training runs to decide which athletes start in the Olympic downhills next month in Torino, Italy, matching a custom that has long been a source of both contention and pride within the Austrian ski team.

‘We have a team…where you have the depth of five or more athletes who are able to get on the podium’ said Jesse Hunt, the team’s alpine director, in a conference call organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

But the thing is, only four skiers from each nation can compete in each discipline. So, like their Austrian counterparts, the U.S. Ski Team is going to have to winnow the field a bit, and they are considering using the downhill training runs to do that.

‘It’s an important tool to use…truthfully, we haven’t used it a lot in the Olympics. We’ve used it in world championships in the past.’

Hunt suggested Wednesday that the team might us the method for both women’s and men’s downhills, although that might not be necessary on the women’s side now that Caroline Lalive is sitting out the Games with a knee injury.

The team named its Olympic squad on Wednesday, although without getting specific about which athletes would start which events. The men’s squad included downhillers Daron Rahlves, Bode Miller, Scott Macartney, Marco Sullivan and Steve Nyman.

The women’s team included downhillers Kirsten Clark, Stacey Cook, Lindsey Kildow, Caroline Lalive, Libby Ludlow, and Julia Mancuso.

Some of those athletes are speed specialists who have met criteria in downhill and no other event, while others are all-rounders who will have other opportunities to race in the Olympics.

In the past, the deep Austrian ski team has used training runs to determine starters for World Cup, World Championship and Olympic downhills. In 1980, Leonard Stock won the Olympic downhill after qualifying that way.

In recent seasons, members of the Austrian downhill team have complained that despite strong performances in training runs they were not given World Cup start positions, in part because preference was given to skiers who needed a few points in their hunt for the overall World Cup title.

‘It has it’s pros and cons, definitely’ Hunt said Thursday. ‘We want to make sure that our athletes are using the training runs to dial in the courses, to make sure that they’re right on the line, that they have the opportunity to test the line.

“It’s going to require their full intensity for the entire run, and there’s not a lot of testing the line at that point.’

The training runs for the Olmypic men’s downhill are on Feb. 9, 10 and 11, followed by the race on Feb. 12 in Sestriere.

The women’s training runs are on Feb. 12, 13 and 14, followed by the race on Feb. 15 at San Sicario.

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