USSA post-Olympic analysis
Ryan Summerlin April 15, 2014
Ted Ligety was on stage again last week, recounting his gold medal experience nearly two months earlier. This time there wasn’t the glare of TV lights or probing questions from news media. With an audience of 150 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association coaches and staff for its annual Athletic Summit, it was Ted’s turn to talk about what led to his success on the world’s biggest stage and to set the stage for PyeongChang 2018.
Coaches from a half dozen different sports listened intently as Ligety, along with aerialist Mac Bohonnon and halfpipe skier Brita Sigourney, recounted his Sochi experience. What worked, what didn’t. What elements made a difference for 17 U.S. skiers and snowboarders flying home with Olympic medals.
"There’s not too much you really need to change for the Olympics," said Ligety. "But you need to be prepared to the point where you’re confident in your ability."
Growing up in Park City, Ligety knew about excellence from an early age. He watched Alberto Tomba at America’s Opening. And when the World Cup left town, he and the Park City Ski Team trained on a hard-core injected race hill.
"We were fortunate to have developed a partnership with the Russians in Sochi," said Ligety. "I was able to train on the GS hill a year earlier. When you’ve skied a course, it takes away your anxieties."
Teen Mac Bohonnon, a student athlete at the USSA Team Academy, hadn’t thought much about actually making the Olympic team until a week before the close of qualifying when he scored his first career World Cup podium. Ten days later, he was named as the lone men’s aerialist on the team.
"I didn’t start thinking about Olympics until after I competed at the Olympics," laughed Bohonnon. "I was in denial after my podium. There was a lot of added pressure but I learned to deal with it. I was representing my entire team."
Bohonnon’s storybook Olympics netted him a fifth place finish, coming on the heels of his first ever full double full full, a series of three flips with four twists.
Looking back on Sochi, the USSA came in with a high level of preparedness. "We’re always looking for change and adapting more quickly than others," said USSA High Performance Director Troy Flanagan.
One of the keys to the USSA’s 17-medal success in Sochi was its relentless pursuit of its own private hotel to complement the Athlete Village. The hotel allowed the USSA to deploy special support programs for athletes, including its own team of chefs to provide familiar and nutritious meals for athletes.
Over the course of three weeks, USSA provided 1,425 training programs, 1,900 physical therapy sessions, 180 doctor appointments, 160 sports psychology appointments and 1,325 home cooked meals.
After seven months on the road, the 2014 season has come to a close. In just a few weeks, athletes will be starting to pack the USSA Center of Excellence.
As he begins his training for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, Ligety looked back with pride at what he accomplished in Sochi.
"My first gold (2006, alpine combined) was a surprise. This one was a lot more valuable," he said. "Being able to win when you’re the favorite is all that much more valuable. Most of all, though, I felt I was prepared. And I was able to ski the way I wanted to on that day."
One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he’s not traveling the world with the team.