Park City athletes have a big upcoming season for their respective U.S. national teams with Olympic qualifiers taking place
For the upcoming 2021 winter sports season, athletes from Park City are not only going to be well represented on the U.S. National teams, they’re expected to provide different sorts of thrills and stories of triumphs and tribulations.
Some of them, such as local legends Ted Ligety, Steve Nyman and Winter Vinecki, are in the later stage of their careers and looking for another push toward a successful Winter Olympics in 2022, which athletes will begin qualifying for this season.
“Being named to the team is nice, but when you’ve been on the team as long as myself, Steven (Nyman) and Mikaela (Shiffrin) and have done well, it’s just another day in the journey for doing what we do,” Ligety said. “Everything we are doing right now is about getting back to where we want to be, which is winning races, because that’s the ultimate goal.”
For others though, like sisters Madison and Kasey Hogg and Nick Page, this may be their rookie or sophomore seasons on the national team and they’re just trying to find their footing and prove that they belong.
“Last year I was able to get my rookie year out of the way and it was such a great learning experience. … This new atmosphere at the world cup level and building up to skiing the way I can, I just want to build off what I learned last year,” Page said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get back to work. … I know I have another year with the team that’s solidified so it allows me to really push myself for next season.”
In total, there are 15 athletes with Park City ties named to the national Alpine skiing and freestyle ski and snowboard teams.
The Alpine national team will feature Ligety and Nyman on the “A” team while, Sam DuPratt on the “B” team and Lauren Macuga on the developmental squad.
Macuga, who was prevented from competing at the Junior Worlds last season by a broken fibula, is hoping to qualify again.
“I want to actually compete and make a name for myself; keep proving that I’m getting better and ready for the next steps.”
According to Nyman, the alpine team is ready to win right now and the younger guys must have that sort of mindset when joining himself, Ligety and the veterans.
“I’m really excited with where are at as a group. … Last year we had four guys finish in the top-20, the first time ever for us, but we weren’t on the podium so that has to be the next step,” Nyman said. “We aren’t competing to finish fifth through 20th, we are here to win again, and we can win again. That’s the mentality we are trying to instill and what we started talking about as soon as the season ended.”
Representing athletes on the freestyle teams are Brad Wilson, Page and the Hogg sisters on the moguls team while Kaila Kuhn, Dani Loeb, Megan Smallhouse and Vinecki on the aerials squad.
For the Hoggs, it’s a special thing to make the national team for the first time, but doing so with your sister/best friend is even better.
“It was really exciting because we’ve been skiing together our whole lives and have always dreamed of this happening,” Madison said. “I feel like to get to experience everything together and make all the same adjustments going into the new team.”
On the snowboard side of things, Jade Thurgood is a member of the slopestyle and big air rookie team, Mikey LaCroix is on the snowboard cross team while Livia Molodyh, who is on the developmental team for snowboard cross, is looking to move up with a successful season.
“Obviously I’m super pumped but I was hoping to make the pro team this year, but it’s alright because it just means I got another chance next year,” Molodyh said. “I’ve just got to keep getting better. … Keep going to these world cups and get more experience at them and hopefully next year, I’ll be where I want to be on the pro team.”
With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down most gyms across the country, it’s been difficult for the athletes to get in the proper training, because according to most of them, there is no real offseason. Once the previous season ends, training for the next one begins.
So while they’re doing what they can from their comfort of their homes, they’re enjoying the additional time with family.
“One good thing is that I’ve spent the last month and a half with family in Texas. … It’s definitely the most amount of time I’ve spent with them in the last 5-6 years before making the team,” Vinecki said.
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