Team leaves Turin with medals, snafus
March 1, 2006
The Turin Winter Olympics are over and the results for the United States Ski and Snowboard Team may not have been the ‘Best in the World’, but certainly proved to be interesting — a mix of success, disappointment and antics.
The slogan was patriotic and inspiring before the Games, but when the skiing side of the American contingent produced only three medals, it became a source of gross overconfidence and ridicule from the media and average Americans alike. Still, U.S. Ski Team president Bill Marolt released a statement on Monday standing by his slogan.
"First and foremost, I am so very proud of what these 10 athletes accomplished, and especially our U.S. Snowboarding program that is clearly Best in the World. If you want to accomplish great things in sport, you have to set high goals, " said Marolt. "I have absolutely no regrets with the goal we set to be Best in the World. We will continue to work towards that same goal in the future."
Certainly, there is plenty of reason to be proud. They finished with a total of 10 medals. Youthful exuberance proved to be the secret something that earned the skiing side of the USSA its few, yet fantastic medals. Park City’s Ted Ligety, 21, became the first native-born Parkite and Utahn to win a gold medal in alpine combined. Julia Mancuso, also 21, showed the world that girl power, with all its accessories a tiara, pink underoos and the like really might have some secret ski karma that helped earn her the slalom win on a snowy Friday in Sestriere.
Snowboarding also brought many bright spots to the team. Of course, nobody is shocked to see the country where the sport was developed dominate in its first few Olympic outings. Still, America seemed to feel a sense of satisfaction as the "Flying Tomato" Shaun White soared to the top of the podium in men’s halfpipe during the early days of the Games, followed closely by U.S. teammate Danny Kass with silver. Hannah Teter followed, winning her gold medal in halfpipe along with silver-medal winning sidekick Gretchen Bleiler.
Success continued as Seth Westcott earned gold in the inaugural Olympic snowboardcross event. It looked the Americans would continue to garner Olympic gold in snowboarding events until Lindsey Jacobellis, with the win firmly in hand in the women’s snowboardcross, apparently decided to wow the crowd with a grab that would ultimately spell disaster as she fell and watched her gold medal slip into silver. Rosey Fletcher brought some redemption a week later with a bronze medal win in the snowboard parallel giant slalom.
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And then there were the freestylists, many of whose hopes quickly headed down the hill. The female mogul skiers had a shaky start after medal hopeful Hannah Kearney missed the finals, and the remaining Americans finished far from the pdoium. The men made a slightly better showing. First-time Olympian Toby Dawson, a Korean-born orphan who was adopted by ski instructors from Colorado, emerged out of the shadows of sports supermodel and NFL hopeful Jeremy Bloom and showed the world what he could do winning the bronze in men’s moguls. On the aerials side of the things, most of the team failed in qualifying, leaving the medal hopes squarely on the shoulders of Jeret "Speedy" Peterson. The Boise, Idaho, native did his best, pushing the sport forward by completing the first quintuple jump in Olympic competition, but struggled on the landing and finished out of medal contention.
In Nordic sprint events, Kikkan Randall posted a U.S. Olympic best-ever performance and Andy Newell qualified second in the men’s race.
Jacobellis was not the only team member with a mark in the questionable behavior department. Skier Bode Miller’s recent comments about competing drunk in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes seemed to be in poor taste, but allowable, if he dominated the five Olympic alpine events. When failed to win any medals in Turin, suddenly Bode just being Bode was not so acceptable. Peterson also let his partying get this best of him when he was sent home from the Games a few days early after getting into a bar brawl.
Marolt continued that some individuals had made poor judgments and others had not performed as expected, and was already looking forward to the next Games.
"As a team, we will leave here with a lot to be proud of," Marolt said. "We have a tremendous group of athletes who have regularly performed at the highest levels internationally. We’ll take time as a team after these Games to reflect on how we can better prepare. But we’ll also take pride in what many of our great athletes accomplished in Torino."