Medals mean too much to U.S. skiing officials |

Medals mean too much to U.S. skiing officials

Should we consider the U.S. Ski Team a failure if it comes home from the Winter Olympics with a single medal?

It’s a touchy subject because the Americans have been made out to be a bust for repeatedly finishing off the podium as the events dwindle at the 20th Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Thanks to coaches and team officials who set a lofty pre-Olympics goal of eight medals, the U.S. team is looking like the laughingstock of the Games. Have they been doing their training on the hill or in the bar?

It’s a shame, because their results really have been pretty solid. Daron Rahlves has produced a pair of top-10s; Julia Mancuso placed seventh in downhill, ninth in combined and 11th in super-G; and Lindsay Kildow has finished seventh in super-G and eighth in downhill.

“It’s not the best, but not for lack of effort,” Kildow said in a story written by Shauna Farnell of the Vail Daily in Torino. “I know everyone’s trying their hardest.”

The single medal belongs to Ted Ligety, with his startling gold in the combined at his first Olympic Games.

Bode Miller has received the most criticism, despite a fifth in downhill and sixth in giant slalom. If only the media covered the sport for four years instead of two weeks they’d realize that only hundredths of a second separate someone in 10th place from the podium. But Miller won two silver medals at the last Olympics and he has been unable to compete with his past.

Last Saturday when Rahlves came in ninth in the super-G, he was a mere .39 of a second behind bronze medalist Ambrosi Hoffmann of Switzerland. Because Rahlves didn’t score his first Olympic medal, it has been pointed out that his career isn’t complete. He is supposedly the Dan Marino of the slopes, having never won the big one, but that is far from the truth as some know that he captured two Hahnenkamm titles, a world championship gold medal and numerous World Cup podiums.

Hopefully, Rahlves will be personally satisfied with his career and won’t be pressured to come back in 2010 to seek that elusive medal. He doesn’t need to prove anything.

So many factors determine whether a skier can stand out among the greats of their field: condition of the snow, body weight and slope of the course. Some hills don’t suit some racers and no matter how clean they ski, a podium finish just isn’t possible.

Unfortunately, medals determine whether someone succeeds or fails in the Olympics. It’s a joke. Just making the Olympics is an incredible accomplishment.

Anyone who places in the top 10 at the Games has performed remarkably well. Maybe the International Olympic Committee needs to overhaul its three-medal format.

If there is any blame, it should be on U.S. Ski Team officials for setting too high of a standard. After all, the United States hasn’t been wearing out the World Cup podium steps this season. Four medals would have been more realistic goal since the team is relatively young and will be more savvy by the time the next Winter Games roll around in 2010 in British Columbia.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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