- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 3, 2004

An assessment of the just-concluded winter season sends a strong message to the world: U.S. Skiing had some great results this year, and most of America’s ski and snowboard teams will need to be reckoned with come the World Championships next winter and the Winter Olympics in 2006.

Most of the attention was focused on the Alpine skiing disciplines. The U.S. Alpine team won its first men’s World Cup title in two-plus decades and recorded 10 World Cup victories. The American team was third overall in the Nations Cup, 20 behind runner-up Italy.

The men had success not seen since the early 1980s, when the Mahre twins dominated the international ski racing scene and Phil Mahre won the overall, giant slalom and combined World Cup championships in 1983.

“A lot of great things are happening on the men’s side and the women’s side,” said Jesse Hunt, Alpine director of U.S. Skiing. “On the men’s side we had terrific results from our top-end guys — Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller. With the women, we had some injuries, but our younger athletes had a really big year. The [womens] program shows depth. They can score across the board, in all four events.”



Miller, from Franconia, N.H., was in the hunt for the overall World Cup title throughout the season and finished fourth. He also won the giant slalom title. Miller finished first in six competitions: three giant slaloms, one slalom and two combineds.

Rahlves finished second in the final super G and downhill standings against the best skiers in the world. He was also second in the downhill the previous season. Rahlves, who is from the Lake Tahoe region of California, won four races this season: two downhills and two super Gs. His strong showing placed him fifth in overall World Cup standings.

The fourth and fifth overall placements gave the U.S. team two men in the top five for the first time since 1982, when Phil Mahre won the overall title and brother Steve was third.

Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, was on her way to a great year, standing third in the slalom, when a knee injury ended her season with six weeks to go. She finished ninth in downhill points, 13th overall and was top-20 in both super G and giant slalom.

Slalom skier Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., had her best results in three years, including a second in the slalom at the World Cup Finals and three other top-fives.

“We have super athletes and have had a stable program for a few years,” said Hunt. “That stability gave the athletes the time they needed to mature. We now have a continuity in the program, and that’s something we haven’t had in the past.

“We’re in a sport that requires a lot of experience,” Hunt continued, adding that the athletes have to ski for a few seasons to consistently be among the leaders. “Davon, for example, has had good results all his career. It’s only now [the past two seasons] that he is consolidating those results.”

The athletes who compete for America’s freestyle skiing team also have something to show from this winter: nine World Cup victories (including three from skiers in their first full season on the tour) and 40 top-three finishes.

“You always want more wins, and we do — but we dominated men’s moguls with four of the top five, six in the top eight skiers, and we had four in the top seven among the women,” said freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen. “We’re fortunate that no one else has the depth we have in moguls … and in aerials.”

The men’s moguls group had seven wins, including three by World Cup runner-up Toby Dawson from Vail. The women’s side got a pair of victories from rookie Hannah Kearney of Norwich, Vt., and 11 other top-three finishes.

The U.S. disabled alpine skiers reclaimed the Nations Cup and picked up 24 medals — including a world’s best nine golds — at the World Championships and saw its athletes collect five World Cup trophies.

Laurie Stephens of Wenham, Mass., won the women’s overall disabled Alpine championship, while in disabled cross-country, Candace Cable of Truckee, Calif., won the women’s overall title.

American teams were not as successful in cross-country skiing with Carl Swenson of Park City, Utah, finishing as the top American in 44th place. No U.S. women were listed in the International Ski Federation standings.

Snowboard team member Lindsey Jacobellis of Bondville, Vt., finished second overall in the FIS standings. Among the men, Seth Wescott of Farmington, Maine, was fourth.

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