Betschart promoted to B team
PARK CITY, Utah – Six long years on the U.S. Ski Team has finally produced a seeding on the squad that should provide Wisi Betschart with the World Cup starts he’s coveted.
The 22-year-old speed skier from Heavenly Ski Resort and South Lake Tahoe has been elevated from the “C” to the “B” team for the 1999-2000 season.
“It feels great. It’ll give me some more opportunities and I’ll racing more World Cups next year. Hopefully, I can move up from there to the A team,” Betschart said.
Betschart was promoted because his points for the World Cup start list broke the top 60 – 57th.
“I’ll definitely be in the first World Cup because I have a spot and from there I expect to see more World Cups, especially in Europe, to gain experience,” he said. “If I keep improving, I’ll stay, but if I’m hanging outside the points my plan is to go back to Europa Cup to work on my world ranking so I can get better start positions.”
World Cup teammate Jonna Mendes, who also shaped her skiing career at Heavenly, has been selected to the B team.
Betschart, 22, had a mix of positive and disappointing results during the 1998-1999 season. He finished 30th and 31st in two World Cup downhill starts and scored a career-best fourth-place finish in a Europa Cup downhill. But his few World Cup chances and a disappointing showing at nationals, where he didn’t crack the top 5, tainted what was a successful season, considering he was only two years removed from knee surgery.
Following her Olympic debut, the 19-year-old Mendes’ season was solid as she placed a U.S.-best 10th in the combined at the World Championships, consistently cracked the top 32 in World Cup races and finished second in the downhill for the second straight year at the World Junior Championships.
While Olympic champion Picabo Street of Park City, Utah, is scheduled to begin her gradual return to international racing, Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minn.; Katie Monahan of Aspen, Colo.; and Chad Fleischer of Vail, Colo., plus three other veterans lead a 42-member U.S. Alpine Ski Team for next season, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association recently announced.
The 42-member team is evenly split with 21 men, 21 women. Street – the senior member of the women’s team in her 12th season – is joined on the Women’s A Team by Koznick, who won her second World Cup slalom last season; Monahan, who enjoyed the best season of her career during this past winter and Megan Gerety of Anchorage, Alaska, who rebounded nicely from leg problems.
The Men’s A Team is comprised of Fleischer, who posted the then-best result of his career by finishing sixth in super-G at the ’99 World Championships and then bested that when he was second in super-G at World Cup Finals in Sierra Nevada, Spain; Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., who had a pair of fourth-place finishes for his best international results; and Daron Rahlves of Truckee, one of the best super-G racers on tour.
“We’ve got several key athletes coming off the best season of their career, which is great because they – and everyone else – can see what hard work produces. Really, it’s thrilling to see such positive results,” said USSA Vice President of Athletics Alan Ashley. “Chad and Katie and Koz, and some of the others know what has to be done, and they’re absolutely doing it. They’re on the right path.
“But we’re also just 33 months away from the 2002 Olympics. All you have to do is look at how our World Championships results were in February to see how critical it is that we have a sense of urgency and continue to pick up the pace at which people achieve success. If we’re going to get medals in ’02 – and we are going to contend for and get medals in ’02,” Ashley said, “we have to make sure that every day makes a difference. The coaches and athletes both clearly understand this.”
Fleischer previously had been known as a downhiller, and he won the U.S. downhill title at season’s end on the 2002 Olympic downhill course at Utah’s Snowbasin Ski Area, but he also emerged as a contending super-G skier last winter. Miller, in his second year of World Cup racing, showed a flare which has come to mark his style with a top-10 in slalom at World Championships and four World Cup top-10s, including two fourths in slalom. Rahlves, nicked by injuries, remains one of the top World Cup super-G skiers and a promising downhill racer.
Koznick collected the second World Cup slalom win of her career last season and finished the season sixth in the World Cup points. Monahan started the season by posting her first World Cup top-20 and, by the end of the winter, had her first World Cup podium (third in a super-G at St. Moritz) plus two more national titles in super-G and combined. Gerety, returning after leg injuries bothered her for two seasons, had one of her best seasons, including eighth in downhill at the World Championships and another top-10 in a World Cup SG.
Among other members of the Ski Team for the coming season are a handful of recent World Junior Championships medalists – ’99 combined gold medalist Caroline Lalive of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Mendes, who’s taken the downhill silver medal in each of the last two World Junior Championships; ’97 slalom silver medalist Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo.; ’99 downhill bronze medalist Alison Powers of Fraser, Colo., and ’98 downhill bronze medal-winner Scott Macartney of Redmond, Wash. Powers is the reigning Nor Am women’s overall and super-G champion while Macartney won the ’99 Nor Am super-G title. In addition, Megan Ganong of Olympic Valley took the women’s ’99 Nor Am downhill crown with Powers runner-up.
Street, the two-time World Cup downhill champion and ’98 Olympic super-G gold medalist who’s been off skis since a Friday the 13th crash during World Cup Finals in Bormio, Italy in March 1998, took off for the ’99 season while recuperating from knee and thigh surgeries. Her game plan, with an eye toward the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, calls for gradually getting back on skis during the coming season, returning to racing in 2002 and being at full speed in 2002.
“Picabo’s coming back at Picabo’s pace. Nobody knows her body like she does, and she’s setting the timetable for coming back when she’s healthy,” Ashley said. “We miss her leadership and her energy, but she’ll be back when she decides she’s ready. She knows it’s totally her call.”
Marco Sullivan of Tahoe City, who trains at Squaw Valley USA, was selected to the men’s C team.
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