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Thanks to outstanding efforts from Bode and the boarders, plus the usual clutch performances in freestyle, the U.S. reached its lofty goal of winning 10 medals at the Salt Lake Olympics¿four more than at Nagano in 1998. It’s true that besides Bode Miller, the alpine squad came out flat. But that disappointment shouldn’t distract us from what’s been accomplished¿and what can be accomplished.
For the U.S., where one group failed, another stepped up¿and that’s the definition of a team. The freestyle squad did what it always does: deliver. They showed the alpine team what it takes to win medals: three or four legit contenders in each event, not one or two.
Some sniped that four of the snowboard medalists aren’t “official” members of the U.S. team, and that’s technically correct. But the team deserves credit for opening its program to all comers. Meanwhile, U.S. cross-country skiers had their best results since the days of Bill Koch. And the nordic combined racers just missed their first-ever medal.
Anything can happen in a one-shot crapshoot such as the Olympics. Just ask Switzerland: The world’s second strongest alpine team collected half as many medals as the U.S. The most important gauge of the alpine team, and indeed all U.S. efforts, should be the season-long World Cup. And the alpine team is headed in the right direction.
The U.S. finished sixth for the second straight year in the SKI Magazine Nations Cup and increased its points by 20 percent. Those finishes, while still miles behind Austria, represent the team’s best results since 1985. Miller skied to fourth overall and second in the slalom, while Kristina Koznick, who skis as an independent, also was second in the slalom. (Memo to management: finding a way to bring Koznick back into the fold will make you look smart.)
The team’s Park City headquarters has never been better. The entire organization now focuses on winning, and landing the resources needed to succeed. In the end, setting the goal of 10 medals may have been more important than attaining it. Just don’t try telling that to Bill Marolt.