Wisi waits for his chance
Wisi Betschart is poised for a breakthrough.
The 21-year-old South Shore native is a racer for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team. Like his teammate from the women’s side, Jonna Mendes, both are on the ‘C’ division of Team U.S.A. While Mendes has lately made local headlines for her starting positions at several World Cup races, Betschart is still waiting for his debut. As a forerunner for two men’s downhills and a super-G this week at Beaver Creek, Colo., his chance may be just around the corner.
Bill Egan, head coach for the U.S. men’s team, was on hand for a press conference at the recent Park City races. When asked about Betschart, coach Egan replied, “Wisi is such a great guy, and he’s skiing so well. But no, he’s not going to have a start at Whistler or Beaver Creek, because all the allocated spots are taken. It’s different with the women’s team, since both Picabo Street and Megan Gerety are out with injuries, that allows more spots for the younger girls to fill.”
Betschart agrees. “For the women’s ski team, all the older racers have retired. That, along with the injured speed skiers, lets Jonna (and some other young women) have some World Cup starts this season. But on the men’s team, all the older guys are still here. There was basically only one spot open, and it was given to Kyle Rasmussen, who’s just coming back from a knee injury. But he really deserves the spot, ’cause he’s been on the team for a long time. I’m still pretty sure that I’m next in line.”
Disappointed over the canceled races Nov. 29-30 at Whistler, Betschart explained that if the American racers did well at one event, scoring in the important top 30, that would open additional berths to the U.S. Team. He would then be in line for the new spot, based on his Europa Cup points.
“This could easily happen, since Tommy (Moe) and A.J. (Kitt) are both skiing really well,” Betschart said.
Even if 1997-98 doesn’t become a World Cup season for the racer, Betschart still is a favorite on the next tier – the Europa Cup. This series is seen basically as a training ground; a series of races to show skill, improve performance levels and gain points for worldwide standings. In his third year on this level, Betschart specializes in the speed events of downhill and super-G racing. He and other Europa Cup racers take off for Europe in two weeks, with stops in Switzerland and Italy.
While in Italy, Betschart looks forward to races on his favorite super-G course at La Thuile. Of the hill, he says, “This is probably the super-G run I like best. Mostly because it’s really steep and turny, so it fits my style.”
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