WHISTLER, BC (Jan. 15) - With just over a year to go for the 2010 Olympics, the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team will is taking the World Cup action to the 2010 venue this weekend for competition that will offer athletes and coaches a glimpse of what their future in Whistler holds.
"Our cross country team will experience a classic sprint, team sprint and pursuit event," U.S. Nordic Program Director John Farra said. "In addition to testing the athletes these three events are arguably the most complicated events to host so the Olympic officials will have a true test on their hands as well."
For Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) training and racing in Whistler is just like being at home.
"We've spent a lot of time here so far. We've done a couple of camps here in the summer, so these trails aren't as foreign to us as some of the other World Cup venues we race at," Newell said. "It's kind of like our second home because we're used to it and we're used to the trails. It's sick."
According to Newell, having the Olympic venue feel so comfortable to the Team gives the U.S. athletes an leg up.
"That's why we've been coming here so often in the summer," Newell said "I think at this point we know the courses better than any other country. I think it's going to be an advantage."
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) also shared Newell's affinity for considering Whistler her own.
"I see all the foreign teams arriving and I almost want to say 'welcome' because I really feel at home. We've just already spent so much time here that it feels natural," Randall said.
Randall, who is the first U.S. woman to win a modern day cross country World Cup event, is also moved by the Olympic spirit she feels there.
"It is definitely exciting to be here," Randall said. "All the Olympic signs are starting to go up everywhere and I kindof get the same chills I got when I was getting ready for the Olympics in 2002."
For Newell, winning in Vancouver would be the ultimate confidence builder for 2010.
"It would be incredible. It's definitely my goal to be in the finals tomorrow and if I can make the podium, to be on it in the Olympic venue a year out is a big boost," Newell said.
The cross country action kicks off Friday with a classic sprint and runs through the weekend with pursuits on Saturday and the team sprint event Sunday.