Schlepers couldn’t be happier schlepping for four-time Olympian
WHISTLER, B.C. – Sarah Schleper doesn’t go anywhere without her family.
For the past two winters, she has traveled the World Cup circuit with her husband, Federico Gaxiola, and her 2-year-old son Lasse.
And at Whistler Creekside, if they were handing out medals to skiers for most family members in attendance, Schleper would definitely be in the running.
In Wednesday’s giant slalom, her first race at her fourth Olympics, Schleper’s entourage numbered 20. That included parents, step parents, in-laws, brothers and young Lasse and Federico.
“It’s all support,” said Schleper’s dad, Buzz, who runs a popular ski shop in Vail. “We’ve been there all the way. We wouldn’t stop now.”
it was shaping up to be a big day for Team Schleper-Gaxiola, too, before heavy fog forced race officials to scrap the second run after multiple delays and reschedule the race for today.
Schleper, who turned 31 on Feb. 19, outdid her younger U.S. teammates in the morning run, finishing in 1 minute, 16.19 seconds. She was in 14th place heading into the afternoon, 1.07 seconds back of race leader Elisabeth Goergl of Austria. (See related story)
“I think she’s skiing incredible,” said brother Hunter, 18, also a member of the U.S. Ski Team who is not competing at these Games.
“She’s focused,” her father added, while waiting in the grandstands during one of the many delays. “Everything seems to be going right. She’s only a second out after the first run. I think that’s her best Olympic GS first run ever.”
Buzz should know. He’s been watching his daughter ski since 2, when she got her first set of skis as a birthday gift from dad, and race since 11, when she joined the team at Ski Club Vail.
He has watched his daughter ski in four Olympics, starting with the 1998 Nagano Games where her best result was a 22nd in slalom.
When asked whether these Winter Games will be his daughter’s most cherished, considering they are likely her last and that she made it to Whistler after a string of injuries and having a child, Buzz Schleper said he didn’t know.
“Everyone is a different experience. She’s enjoyed every one,” he said. “This is the first one where she’s had a husband and a child. That will be the highlight of this Olympics.”
At least one of them. Buzz and Hunter said they wouldn’t be surprised if Schleper, who won her first World Cup race 10 years after joining the U.S. team, didn’t turn in her best Olympic result yet at Whistler.
In her one and only race at the resort, as a junior in 1994, she won the Whistler Cup.
With Wednesday’s cancellation, her winning streak here – despite a 16-year lull – remains intact. She’ll get another chance today to ski even faster than she did Wednesday.
Regardless of how she does, she won’t lack for support.
“I’m used to being up there,” Hunter said while pointing up the mountain. “But right now, I’m just having a good time cheering on my sister.”
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