Moseley ponders boycott, but doesn’t think it’ll do any good
Disarray among athletes continued Wednesday surrounding the U.S. Ski Team’s decision to take just two men’s mogul skiers to the Olympics next month in Nagano.
With the entire team in Breckenridge, Colo., preparing for this weekend’s World cup event, members of the men’s mogul team, including Olympic-bound Jonny Moseley, remained confused over the exclusion of skiers Evan Dybvig and Jim Moran from the Olympic team.
“I could boycott the Olympics to show my support for those guys, but the ski team (officials) wouldn’t care. They’d just find someone to replace me,” said Moseley on Wednesday from his Breckenridge area hotel room. “It’s disappointing to know that the organization is so clueless and ignorant. We clearly have two guys not going who could be in the running for medals.”
Moseley and Alex Wilson are the lone U.S. men’s mogul skiers who satisfied stringent Olympic-qualifying criteria established by the U.S. team.
The U.S. criteria are as follows, in order of importance: (Based on World Cup performances) 1. Win the Gold Cup; 2. A win or top-three; 3. Two top-fives; 4. Three top-tens; and, 5. If no American in the top 10, highest ranking finishes. (Note: The Breckenridge event does not figure.)
Criteria listed on the ski team’s web page goes on to stipulate that a third or fourth position, “will be filled providing all three start positions ‘can be’ filled using criteria listed as 1, 2, 3.”
In addition, the web page states, “Athletes who have met the criteria listed as 1, 2, or 3 will be selected ahead of all other athletes provided quota spots and/or start positions are available.”
Sections of the criteria stipulate that up to four spots allowed by the United States Olympic Committee could be filled according to other factors, including best World Cup event finishes and coach’s discretion.
But Dybvig, who has finished seventh and ninth in World Cup events this season, and Moran, who has a fifth and ninth this season and has won two World Cups in the past, were not selected via coach’s discretion.
While Dybvig and Moran did not technically qualify based on results, a perceived snubbing of them has left Moseley, the team’s current leader, pondering his next move.
“If the organization didn’t have such a stranglehold on (going to) the Olympics, I’m not too sure that many guys would be sticking around,” said Moseley, who’ll make his Olympic debut next month. “I feel responsible to try to make changes. But how do you get that national forum? I’m willing to speak out and do whatever I can for those guys. But I don’t want to jeopardize my position. Yelling at guys that could potentially juke me with their powers is a risky call. I really don’t know what to do.”
Currently, Dybvig and Moran are pursuing legal action, including an appeal by Dybvig to the United States Olympic Committee.
“The U.S. team is one of the most competitive teams in the world. To not fill the (allotted) Olympics spot doesn’t make any sense,” Dybvig said. “I asked the coaches and they said I didn’t meet the criteria. But there’s got to be another reason and nobody understands it. They say they’re sending the most-qualified team. People are shocked. The Olympics are an important event and they should fill the spots.”
Dybvig cited Olympic women’s mogul team member Donna Weinbrecht as an example of coach’s discretion. According to Dybvig, Weinbrecht, a former Olympic champion and currently sixth in world standings, didn’t meet the criteria established by the ski team but was granted a spot on the team anyway.
“Right there they’ve shown that they’ll take in to consideration past results,” he said.
But Jeff Good, U.S. freestyle assistant coach and head moguls coach, said Weinbrecht was chosen based on “objective coach’s discretion,” that is, according to four top-10 results this season.
“It’s rather ironic. We used to use a lot of coach’s discretion. But as a rule, we’re trying to stay away from that now,” said Good, who penned the Olympic criteria with team head coach Wayne Hilterbrand. “We’ve taken chin music in the past from athletes who didn’t get selected to a team. The bottom line is those guys didn’t meet the criteria and they all knew what it was. I have the utmost compassion for those guys. But there’s no way to sugarcoat it.”
Moseley, Dybvig and other men’s team mogul skiers pointed to recent changes in United States Ski Association management as the root of the current crisis.
While the mogul coaching staff has remained in tact during the past couple of years, USSA officials directed the implementation of stricter qualifying guidelines, according to Moseley and Dybvig, and those guidelines are the focus of the skiers’ discontent.
“They believe that setting this strict criteria is how you make a champion. I totally disagree,” Dybvig said.
“It’s a reflection of the staff, not the coaches. I truly think the coaches fought to get those guys on the team. But if you talk to the coaching staff, they’ll pass the buck to the ski team (officials) and tell you to think about medaling, that it’s not your department,” he said. “(The USSA) is in reorganization, trying to get back on its feet and make changes to make the quality of the ski team higher and claim more champions. Granted the criteria is high and not that bad. But it’s like we’re the guinea pigs for them to improve an organization which has been failing for a long time. For them to think that Evan and Jim couldn’t medal is obvious ignorance.”
Bill Marolt, second-year president and CEO of the USSA, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Moseley continued that the new management’s reign has led to widespread disillusion among ski team members.
“I’m not sure there’s a lot of freestylers who would claim that U.S. skiing did anything for them,” he said. “In all respect to what they’re trying to do, they’re making all the wrong moves along the way. If there was another organization, I’m sure everyone would go to it.”
Good maintained this year’s Olympic team was the strongest fielded in his three tours as an Olympic coach.
“I feel like we’ve supported these athletes through the years. It’s hard for me not to sound callous. The Olympics now are different than they were in the past. It’s about winning medals and not as much about participation,” said Good, who is eager to switch the focus to the upcoming Olympics and the athletes the U.S. is taking. “C’mon, we’re not trying to hold anybody back from going to the Olympics. The likelihood (of Evan and Jim winning a medal) in our opinion, is not that likely. I’m absolutely confident in the criteria. This isn’t some willy-nilly selection. There’s no need for multiple explanations.”
Still, Moseley sees just two Olympic participants as a self-inflicted slap in the face to the United States’ image on the world stage.
“Other teams in the world are laughing. They’re psyched because it’s more opportunities for their guys to medal,” he said. “I didn’t see this coming at all. I assumed (the team) would send four guys. Then all of a sudden, we’re no longer going to the Olympics as a team.”
As of Wednesday, Moseley remained unsure of whether he’d pursue further action.
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