Big Mountain, Mont. March 21, 2001 (USSA)--Springtime temperatures notwithstanding, everything is set for Friday's opening of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships at Big Mountain, just outside Kalispell.
ESPN will broadcast coverage of the championships April 6, at 4 p.m. EST and April 7, at 4 p.m. EST.
Newly crowned world super G gold medalist Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) and Olympic SG champion Picabo Street (Park City, UT)plus Erik Schlopy (also Park City) will be joined by 250 or more racers and the glittering members of the Chevy Truck Return of theChampions VII. In addition to alpine Olympic and World Championships medal-winners, the Return of the Champions will honor the1968 Olympic Team.
"The course is really good," men's Head Coach Bill Egan said Wednesday after the second day of downhill training, "and the snow isgood, and I'm really impressed by what I've seen so far. This is an outstanding site for nationals and these should be outstandingchampionship races."
Street led the women's training for the second day in a row while Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) finished just ahead of Rahlves andfirst-day training leader Marco Sullivan (Tahoe City, CA).
A FIS-level downhill race, giving young skiers a chance to compete against most of the top U.S. Ski Team racers, will be heldThursday at Big Mountain with the championships starting Friday.
The Return of the Champions is not only a reminder of the U.S. Ski Team's lengthyhistory of success but an annual opportunity tohonor a select team or group in addition to giving athletes a chance to socialize with Ski Team alumni. There also is a fun giantslalom with teams comprised of past and current athletes.
While World Cup veterans will be balancing a chance to catch their breath at the end of almost five continuous months of travel andcompetition, up-and-coming skiers will be looking to impress national team coaches. It's a rite of passage for any racer.
One leading athlete will be missing at Big Mountain: two-time Megan Gerety (Anchorage, AK), who missed last season with achingknees but rebounded this winter for one of the best years of her career, crashed during a Super Series downhill a week ago and wassent home by Coach Jim Tracy with orders to rest. She suffered no serious injury, but as Tracy explained, "Megan needs time offskis and a chance to let her knees rest."
"I'm going to be looking at the youngsters," Egan said. "I'm fired-up to see who's out there and how they do against the top guys.Daron and Erik and Chad Fleischer, Vail, CO won't be at the same level as if they still were on the World Cup, but they don't want toget beaten, either.
"The guys who have a lot to show are the young guys. I've seen some things that've impressed me already, but I'm going to bewatching everything. This is the time young racers get to show what they can do."
Following the championships, the men's slalom finals for the Chevy Truck Super Series will be held March 30-31 on the 2002Olympic course at Utah's Deer Valley Resort.
Friday (March 23) - Men's and women's downhill
Saturday - Men's super G
Sunday - Women's super G
Monday - Men's giant slalom
Tuesday - Women's giant slalom
Wednesday - Men's and women's slalom