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Park City, Utah
November 22, 2002
After Andrine Flemmen’s win in Solden, Austria, we traveled back to Norway and received a very nice welcome home. I was surprised by the media’s reaction to her win and their interest in talking with me about it. My experience with the majority of American press was that they took little interest in any ski races other than Olympic races and had no interest in any ski race that took place in September. I remember after finishing third in the 1988 Overall World Cup SL Standings, ESPN’s perennial announcer Bob Beattie asked me if I was going to retire because I fell in the Olympics. Of course I wasn’t going to retire, I just had the best season of my career. This was typical behavior from the American press and I learned to live with it. I soon realized this was not the case in Norway as the buzz surrounding Andrine and Stina’s results continued for a few weeks.
Our next trip was to the states for the Park City “America’s Opening” World Cup races. The expectations had risen after the Solden race and now I was in my home country. When I was hired by the Norwegian Ski Federation, one of the messages that kept coming at me from my boss, Alpine director Per Lund, the Norwegian Alpine Ski Committee and the media was how Andrine and Stina had fallen during the Olympics on the same course the year before. In fact, one prominent Norwegian press member for Norway’s largest newspaper had tabbed their falls in the Olympics as “The number one flop in all of Norwegian sports for the year 2002”
Now the expectations were that the American races would go smoothly because they had an American coach. Ah! This is where it gets interesting because when I raced in Europe my teammates and I used to bitch and moan about everything. The food, water, beds, travels etc…You name it, it sucked! So I took it on myself to minimize the athletes travel time, get them in the right hotel, get them the right food etc…I knew how crucial it was for them to “NOT BITCH AND MOAN” about the situation. But it didn’t matter because within hours of arriving in Winter Park, Colo., prior to the races for training it started. “The water has too much chlorine in it.” “The bed’s have sheets?” Americans are falsely nice!” It didn’t matter how much preparation I had done, the tone was negative.
To make a long rather boring story shorter we sucked badly! The Park City races were a total flop with our best finish being 17th in SL. Andrine and Stina both fell in exactly the same spot they did in the Olympics and my boss, who was back in Norway expecting big things, sent me an SMS message on my cell phone within minutes after their falls stating, “How can this be?” Within a few more minutes the media, which had been so friendly, turned sour. My phone started ringing and I was ill prepared to answer the barrage of questions regarding why this happened?
The next and last World Cup race in Aspen, Colo., a few days later was also bad. The tone had been set right from the start of this trip and I had made my first big mistake. I allowed the negative to seep into the team’s attitude without stopping it early. At least now we could go back to Norway for a few days and try to regroup before going to Central Europe. One thing was for sure. THE HONEYMOON WAS DEFINITELY OVER!