PARK CITY, Utah (July 12) - World Cup podium performers Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) lead a 16-member U.S. Cross Country Ski Team named for the 2008 season.
The Team of six men and 10 women includes eight Olympians, U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said. It's the largest cross country squad since the 18-member Team named for the 1992 Olympic season.
Newell posted the first U.S. podium in 23 years after the 2006 Olympics in Torino, finishing third in the first World Cup race in China and ended the 2007 season sixth in World Cup sprint standings. Randall tore over an icy, sprint course in Russia last January for the first World Cup podium by a U.S. woman and Koos was third the next weekend in Estonia. Together, they marked the first time since 1984 that the U.S. Ski Team had three podium athletes in cross country.
"We have a dedicated group of talented athletes, and we feel we're on the right path as we continue to prepare for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver," Bodensteiner said. "We've been predominantly a men's team for several years, and Andy and Torin as well Kris Freeman [Andover, NH] and Chris Cook [Rhinelander, WI], have given us some outstanding results, but now we're seeing that dynamic change a bit.
"Even our rookies are performing..."
"We have more women on the Team than men now, and every one of these athletes has had strong international results at their level. Kikkan, of course, had the first World Cup top-3 for an American woman in cross country last season and we had strong results at the U-23s [Under-23 World Championships] and Junior Worlds...so even our rookies are performing at a high level."
The 2008 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team (including date of birth, hometown and club program; * indicates Olympian):
Chris Cook (6/15/80; Rhinelander, WI; Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation)*
Kris Freeman (10/14/80; Andover, NH; Andover Outing Club)*
Torin Koos (7/19/80; Leavenworth, WA; Leavenworth Winter Sports Club)*
Andy Newell (11/30/83; Shaftsbury, VT; Stratton Mountain School)*
Kikkan Randall (12/31/82; Anchorage, AK; Alaska Pacific University Nordic)*
Morgan Arritola (5/13/86; Fairfield, ID; Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation)
Rosie Brennan (12/2/88; Park City, UT; National Sports Foundation)
Lindsey Weier Dehlin (7/2/84; Mahtomedi, MN; Northern Michigan University)*
Matt Gelso (7/18/88; Truckee, CA; Auburn Ski Club/University of Colorado)
Taz Mannix (6/14/86; Talkeetna, AK; Alaska Pacific University Nordic)
Morgan Smith (2/10/86; Vernon, VT; Northern Michigan University)
Liz Stephen (1/12/87; East Montpelier, VT; Burke Mountain Academy)
Alexa Turzian (8/13/88; Sun Valley, ID; Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation)
Laura Valaas (3/2/84; Wenatchee, WA; Alaska Pacific University Nordic)
Lindsay Williams (6/16/84; Hastings, MN; Northern Michigan University)*
Leif Zimmermann (10/3/83; Bozeman, MT; Bridger Nordic)*
The Ski Team, which is based in Park City during the preseason with athletes training daily, concluded a two-week camp last month in Oregon, blending on-snow skiing at Mt. Bachelor with dryland training on the Pacific coast. The annual three-week, on-snow camp in New Zealand, providing midwinter conditions begins later this month.
"We've put a premium on opening opportunities for more developing athletes in the last couple of seasons, and these athletes have responded. But we also need to continue to grow the scope of this program if it's going to become as good as it truly can be. We're aiming to continue the growth of the World Cup Team and are also looking at ways to extend our reach further into development," Bodensteiner said.
The World Cup schedule opens Oct. 27-28 in Dusseldorf, Germany - which attracts hundreds of thousands over the weekend for races along the Rhine River on machine-made snow that has been trucked in from outside the city. Included this season is a stop Jan. 22-26 for four races on the 1988 Olympic trails in Canmore, Alberta. "We had an enthusiastic group of fans in Canmore for World Cup races before the 2006 Olympics in Torino when we had five skiers scoring points [i.e., top-30 finishes] and it would be great to have some fans again," he added.
The schedule also has stops in Rybinsk, Russia - where Randall produced her podium last January - and the wild enthusiasm of Otepaeae, Estonia, where Koos was third and Newell fourth a week later.
Foundation plans trips to Otepaeae, Holmenkollen
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation is sponsoring separate trips to two of the most energized European World Cup sites - Feb. 6-11 to Otepaeae, Estonia, and March 4-10 to the renowned Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Oslo, Norway. Otepaeae has been referred to as "a nordic tailgating party" and Bodensteiner will share host guide duties with Kristina Smigun, Estonia's national heroine after becoming a double champion at the 2006 Olympics in Italy. They'll provide a gold-medal, behind-the-scenes tour of the World Cup activities plus a couple of pleasing side trips.
In Oslo, Bodensteiner again will help guide participants to the full range of cross country, jumping and nordic combined World Cup action, but he'll have the assistance of two of Norway's greatest skiing heroes: Bjorn Daehlie and Vegard Ulvang. Daehlie holds the records for 29 Olympics and World Championships medals (12 Olympics medals - eight gold, 17 Worlds medals, nine gold) plus five World Cup titles while Ulvang, double gold medalist at the 1992 Olympics, finished with 14 medals plus the 1990 World Cup championship. For details on the visit to Holmenkollen or Otepaeae, contact: http://foundation.usskiteam.com/trips.html.
The annual SuperTour, with 20-plus races provides opportunities for top-level competition in addition to the World Cup or European races. The SuperTour schedule will open over Thanksgiving Weekend (Nov. 23-24) in West Yellowstone, MT.
Laura Valaas, who won nine of 10 sprints en route to the SuperTour sprint title, also collected the first U.S. women's medal at the U-23 Championships, finishing second in the classic technique sprint. Liz Stephen and Rosie Brennan turned-in top-10 results at Junior Worlds.
Bodensteiner said a world-class coaching staff - from Head Coach Pete Vordenberg through three-time Olympian and World Cup Coach Justin Wadsworth, Sprint Coach Chris Grover and development coaches Matt Whitcomb and Pat Casey - is a cornerstone to the Team's success. "This is the second season under this staff and I'm still amazed every day at the vigor and professionalism with which they attack this sport," Bodensteiner said.
"It's an outstanding staff. We have the talent and now we have a much better idea of how to prepare these athletes...and they're clearly going to get better."