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Top 25 Skiers: Sarah Schleper

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SKIING’s interview with Sarah Schleper, one of North America’s top 25 skiers.

Name: Sarah Schleper

Nickname: Schlep

Age: 21

Date of birth: February 19, 1979

Started skiing: Two and a half

Hometown hill: Vail

Results: Had her first World Cup podium in December, a second in slalom at Sestriere, Italy. First World Cup top 10 was a seventh last season in slalom at Maribor, Slovenia. 1998 U.S. Slalom and GS champion. More than 11 top-20 World Cup finishes. First in slalom at Loveland SuperSeries. First in GS at Winter Park SuperSeries. Twelfth in slalom at Aspen World Cup this year.

Claim to fame outside the gates: “Until I win the Olympics, I guess it’s that topless picture “Travails of a World (C?) Cupper,” SKIING Magazine, September 2000. I got worldwide recognition.”

Would you do it again? “Probably. I was with a friend at the time. It was fun. Yeah, I’d do it again. My dad’s over it now, but he’s holding the negs, saving them for Playboy, for when I’m famous.”

Do you have any pets? “Two Chesapeake labs, Bullet and Jade.”

Beverage of choice: “Ginger beer from Jamaica.”

Favorite music: Phish, Widespread Panic.

What kind of car do you drive? A black, 2000 PT Cruiser. “It’s not bad in the snow.”

Last book you read: Man’s Eternal Questby Paramahansa Yogananda — “Meditation and stuff. I try to use meditation, sometimes in the start, if I’m too nervous.”

What events do you race in? “Slalom and GS. I’ve raced two super G’s at SuperSeries races. I got eighth and 11th, both at Aspen. I hope to work there, too. I’d like to race all four events eventually. But for the time being, I’m going to focus on the technical.”

What’s your game plan this season? “I took a very different approach this summer. I’ve always been really fast in training, but this year I backed off and tried to focus on my technique. I wasn’t sure how the season would pan out. At the end of ’98-’99, I had an MCL reattachment, a tibia plateau fracture. Last year was my first full season on the World Cup. I feel strong — everything’s going good.”

Who’s your biggest rival? “Myself. Beside me, I’m just shooting for the top, so whoever is on top.”

What do you think of Kristina Koznick going independent? “It’s good and bad. It’s good because she took a lot of the attention. She’s a winner; she needed things perfect for her, and that’s how she operated. But it sucks now that she’s gone, because we can’t hang out. Now we don’t have a World Cup winner training with us. Still, it doesn’t affect us too badly.”

How’s your relationship with the team? “This summer we had a mandatory dryland training with the team for four weeks. I refused to go. I spend my summer in Minnesota on a lake. It’s awesome. I can train, swim, use the tramp, and we have a full-sized soccer field. Dryland has never been an issue for me. I need my peace. So, I wrote to the head coaches. They were a little upset.”

How do you feel about freeskiing? “I love freeskiing. It’s really important for racers to be good freeskiers. When I get home, I try to go freeskiing. I’ve gone heli-skiing with the Ski Team, with Mike Wiegele’s group.”

What about the whole jibbing scene? “I think it’s pretty cool. I’m not very good at it. I do the tabletops but the halfpipe is a little sketchy for me.”

Have you been in any movies? “No, but I’d like to make powder movies. I’ll wait till I’m done racing.”

What’s it like being on the road all winter? “The food doesn’t change. European food — three courses every night. I enjoy the food. Food does get a little sketchy, though, when you get to Slovenia.”

What are your goals for 2002?“Gold medals in GS and slalom. I’m going to work my hardest to make it happen.”