Betschart pays way, then re-earns spot on U.S. Ski Team
After what Wisi Betschart had been through in previous seasons, being dropped from the U.S. Ski Team last spring was just another obstacle for the former Heavenly Ski Foundation racer.
Rather than return home to sulk and decide on a new career, Betschart opened his vault of frequent-flier miles and booked a flight to Chile for several South American Cup races in LaParva.
What a smart investment.
In three days, Betschart skied his way back onto the U.S. Ski Team with a podium in downhill, another top 5 finish in downhill and an 11th-place showing in super-G.
Making the results sweeter was the fact Betschart, 25, wasn’t racing against the locals.
“Five or six guys that are in the top 15 in World Cup were down there … Germany, France and Canada, all their top guys were there, so I was pretty fired up to mix with them,” Betschart said.
Betschart opened the week with a fifth-place performance in downhill Aug. 22. His 1 minute, 25.22-second time left him only .34 behind winner Claude Cretier of France. The next-best American was Wade Bishop in 19th place.
A day later, Betschart was even better, placing third in downhill. The nine-year U.S. Ski Team veteran came in third in 1:24.71, trailing Florian Eckert of Germany (1:24.57) and Antonine Deneriaz of France (1:24.34). Eckert was 11th overall last year in the World Cup downhill standings.
“Nothing really changed in my skiing,” Betschart said. “I was just feeling good at the time. Hopefully I can carry that feeling over to the season.”
On the final day of racing, Betschart finished 11th in a super-G. His time of 1:25.66 left him 1.66 behind winner Christophe Saioni.
What all of these encouraging results mean for Betschart is that he starts the Winter Games season with B team status and in striking position to land a starting spot for the World Cup opener Dec. 2 in Beaver Creek, Colo.
While Betschart’s world ranking remained the same in super-G, 102, his downhill rating immensely improved from 94th to 45th.
“Right now with my downhill ranking I’ll have better start positions in World Cup,” said Betschart, who raced injury-free last year for the first time in years.
When Betschart was dropped from the team last spring, officials only told him that it was because he was required to have both his downhill and super-G ranking below 100.
“There’s quotas for everything,” said Betschart, who missed his super-G cutoff by .4 of a point in one race. “I traveled around all summer and trained with the team. The only thing I had to do was get the plane ticket to Chile, and they took care of everything else.
“It was just nice to be officially named, so I don’t have to deal with all that stuff anymore.”
With less than four months to prepare for a shot at qualifying for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Betschart isn’t content with just being a member of the team.
“There are only four spots that are open in each event,” Betschart said. “Obviously, Daron (Rahlves) and Chad (Fleischer) have their spots locked up, but the other two spots in downhill and super-G are wide open. That’s what they always tell us, that it’s wide open.
“The Olympics is a big motivator. I’m feeling better about my skiing and feeling more confident. I know what I want to do and I know what I have to do to get where I want to be.”
And that means not flying solo to Chile next summer.
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Athletes from across the globe will make their way into the National Stadium in Beijing, China, next month for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.