World Cup Skiing in August — well kind of
It’s been a while since I was last with the ski team. If you don’t remember, I last wrote about being a U.S. Ski Team therapist and how fun (read terror-iffic) it was to try and side-slip down the ice field that some call a downhill course.
Actually, quite a bit has happened since I was on the World Cup circuit. Indeed, two big events relevant to Tahoe have occurred: Daron Rahlves won two downhills in two days (never done before) and is the reigning super-G world champion. Marco Sullivan has let everyone know that he has arrived on the World Cup scene with, among other things, an exciting ninth-place downhill run at the Olympics (NBC missed it, but it was spectacular). Previously, Tahoe has been proud of our freestyle athletes and their successes, but after returning from team rotational physical therapist duties during training camp in New Zealand one thing is clear: Tahoe skiers are definitely representative on this year’s alpine team.
Actually, at this point, they are the team.
In addition to the noteworthy accomplishments already mentioned, the men’s World Cup Ski Team has seen some other more internal changes. New speed head coach Johnno McBride has replaced Dale Stevens. Phil McNichol is the new head coach, replacing Bill Egan when he retired. Both of these coaches have extensive experience with the ski team and they have infused a fresh energy into this year’s group.
The A team itself has had its share of ups and downs. Chad Fleischer of Vail, Colo., has been rehabilitating his knee since a severe injury in Wengen. Rahlves dislocated his hip at Squaw at the end of last season. This was the third time, but at camp he was strong and skiing well, a sign of how hard he worked in the off-season. Sullivan is healthy and finished up pretty strong last season. He has the look of an athlete who has much more to offer. His demeanor at camp was interesting. He had an air of confidence (like I’ve got one year under my belt), but also hunger and determination to really show us what he can do.
Two athletes that have alternated between the World Cup and Europa Cup competitions are coming back from surgeries. Jakub Fiala of Frisco, Colo., had surgery on his ankle at the end of last season and is feeling stronger. At training camp he was skiing well and had some of the best super-G times for the team. Scott MacCartney of Redmond, Wash., is coming back from knee surgery and seems poised to make a run for full-time status on the A team.
Overall, the team exudes a sense of deeds, not words. With new coaches and old injuries athletes can start to make excuses. In New Zealand, that attitude did not exist. Everyone seemed to have a kind of a restrained enthusiasm.
Rahlves wants to get back in that groove that he felt during his downhill victories and his super-G championship. At each of those times he felt he could beat anyone. Some call it “The Zone” or being “En Fuego.” Regardless, his present quest is to find that refined air and live there for a while.
Sullivan has the look of a challenger. He has been to the “Electric Circus” of a World Cup season. He not only survived, but he improved while doing it. Now he is poised to raise his own bar and stake a claim on some podiums.
One thing that each athlete can say is that the coaching staff is willing to do what it takes to provide optimal training opportunities.
When I’ve been with professional football and basketball teams in the past the initial training camps were always pretty laid back. However, Johno and his assistant coaches Chris Brigham and Pete MacKenzie are anything but laid back. Many times our days started before sunrise. Usually by noon the team doctor, the athletes and I were on our way back to our hotel. The coaches were not so lucky, usually staying to inject a freezing solution into the hill for the next training day. At least twice these guys came back to the hotel after 8 p.m. (That’s 15 hours on the hill!)
They demonstrated a tireless energy on always trying to make the training experience “a little better and more realistic” for the athletes.
Previously, my experience was during the World Cup season where everyone has a constant frenzy to be ready. I did not realize that this type of energy was exhibited year round.
Being a basketball coach, it was refreshing to see other coaches in action. As we have witnessed locally, coaching can be more challenging in the off-season than during the season itself and at times parents and even athletes may ask, “Is it worth it?”
Even though the USA team coaches exhibited an undying spirit, I was able to see the same type of determination from our Europa Cup team, our men’s and women’s development team, and our own Heavenly Ski Foundation team coaches who were all sharing Mount Hutt.
From my experience at Mount Hutt, I can see that a majority of Tahoe area athletes, their coaches and their parents are willing to do whatever it takes to provide an environment for potential success.
Perhaps that was the most rewarding thing about being in a preseason training campa getting a glimpse into the possible future, one that not only involves Rahlves and Sullivan, but maybe Cory Harris and Chris McKean as well.
— Chris Proctor, M.P.T. works as a physical therapist at Emerald Bay Physical Therapy when he isn’t rotating as a U.S. Ski Team therapist, coaching girls basketball at STHS, or helping his wife raise two boys.
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