Tahoe trio ready to test Olympic courses
SNOWBASIN, Utah – The speed squad of the U.S. Ski Team is borrowing a page from Lake Tahoe’s recent freestyle history. For the first time, the Tahoe Basin will be represented by three speed skiers in this weekend’s Alpine World Cup.
The local troop is led by Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., warmly sporting
his new world champion super-G title; joined by Wisi Betschart of Heavenly; and Marco Sullivan, of Squaw Valley.
While Betschart has previously raced the World Cup format, the weekend’s activities mark a World Cup debut for Sullivan.
The small mountain resort of Snowbasin is bustling with activity, as preparations continue for the unveiling of the new ‘Grizzly’ course. Designed by Swiss Olympian Bernard Russi specifically for the 2002 Olympics, the new piste at this yet uncelebrated resort offers an even playing field for most of the World Cup racers.
With the exception of the Austrian squad, which has an exclusive training
agreement with Team USA, the Lasse Kjus’ and Kristian Ghedinas of the world are learning this course through training runs Wednesday and Thursday.
In both days of training, Rahlves continues to ride his wave of confidence,
claiming top American finishes – 11th Wednesday and eighth on Thursday. Casey Puckett of Aspen, Colo., clocked the No. 2 training time Thursday, but missed a few gates. Sullivan caused a stir when he placed 14th in the first training run, and 24th on the second.
Reporting on the new downhill site, Rahlves said, “It’s a challenging course. I like it top to bottom.”
Regarding the few inches of new snow sprinkled overnight before training,
he continued, “It’s tough to ski on soft snow. It takes a lot of energy. You
really have to fight the line – you get tired.”
With an additional downhill tagged on to the schedule from a weathered-out Wengen, Switzerland, Rahlves will compete in both downhills and the super-G. Betschart is scheduled for Sunday’s super-G, while Sullivan is guaranteed a downhill spot but is striving for a position in the super-G. That final decision will be made by the US coaches, based on the two training results.
Betschart, home in Tahoe for a few days, said of his teammates, “Marco
was skiing really well at the Snowbasin Nor-Ams. But it’s tough to tell from training runs. Still, Marco is skiing fast and Daron is pretty confident right now, so good things could happen.”
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