Olympic Athlete to Watch: Caitlin Ciccone

A year and a half ago, American ski racer Caitlin Ciccone quit racing for good. Or so she thought. Now with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics around the corner, she’s trying to make the U.S. Women’s Ski Cross team. That is, if she can raise enough money to go to the Games.
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Caitlin Ciccone in Action

A year and a half ago, after 21 years on skis, 16 years of alpine racing, and eight of those spent in high intensity training and traveling with the U.S. Ski Team, Caitlin Ciccone needed a breather from her high-speed life. So, she stepped back from living the racing dream and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to live the other skier dream: deep powder days, racing for first tracks, and skiing for fun. She even picked up the all-important ski bum asset: a night job to pay the bills.

However, by the end of her first summer in Jackson, she realized that she missed competing after all. So when the U.S. Ski Cross coach called up and asked if she wanted to try her hand at the sport—which will have its Olympic debut this February—Caitlin jumped at the chance. “It was a perfect opportunity, it just all worked out,” she says.

Ski cross (formerly known as skier cross and recently renamed by the Olympic committee as ski cross) is when four athletes simultaneously charge a course laden with bumps, jumps, banked turns, and sharp corners at 50 miles per hour. Along with Caitlin, there’s an impressive roster of decorated U.S. alpine skiers who will be hopefully be competing in Olympic ski cross this February in Whistler: Daron Rahlves, Casey Puckett, and Langley McNeal.

For Caitlin, a 24 year-old New Hampshire native, it seems competition is a necessary part of life. Growing up, she and her older brother, Cam, competed ferociously against each other. The rivalry pushed Caitlin into excelling at ski racing (she was named to the U.S. Development Team in high school), and Cam (who was the inspiration for her move to Wyoming) is a now full-fledged, dedicated ski bum and Jackson Hole resident.

But like other alpine racers who have tried their hand at skier cross, her first try last season wasn’t an immediate success. Her best finish was 23rd during the 08-09 season, which was cut short by an injury. Undaunted, she is even more determined to make ski cross her sport this year—that is, if she can raise the money.

The newness of the sport and the small size of the U.S. ski cross contingent has forced the already cash-strapped U.S. Ski Team to ask ski cross athletes to raise their own travel and training funds. Planning and attending fundraisers has added even more chaos to the already hectic schedule of training and competing, but Caitlin seems to be taking it in stride. “I’ve definitely learned a lot about business in the last four months,” she laughs.

Her pre-Olympic schedule has been hectic: She shuttled from a fundraiser in New York City to training in Vail and Telluride, Colorado, then to Italy and Austria, the sites for the first few events of the ski cross World Cup in December. But the World Cup season opener in Italy has the season off to a good start, where she broke into the finals for the first time; positive news for a racer looking for an Olympic spot.

“I’m taking a big risk now, to stop working and train this hard for competition when it is coming out of my pocket, but I’m really dedicated,” says Caitlin. “We have an opportunity to do really well in the Olympics, but we have to pay for it.”

But, even with the hard work of fundraising (she has met just under half her budget needs so far), her stoke is high for the upcoming season. “It’s so exciting; I’m so excited to train and ski and get going,” she says. “I’m tired of financials and funding, I just want to go ski.” 

To find out more or donate to Caitlin’s fundraising efforts, go to www.caitlin2010.org.

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