Ski Life: Gold-Medal Roundtable

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The Panel
Gordy Peifer big mountain skier, film star.
Chad Fleischer U.S. Ski Team downhill star, nastar.com national pacesetter.
Donna Weinbrecht winningest U.S. female skier with 46 World Cup mogul victories.
Phil Mahre winningest U.S. male alpine racer in history.
Tamara McKinney winningest U.S. female alpine racer in history.
Wendy Fisher former U.S. Ski Team member turned World Extreme Skiing Champion.
J.P. Auclair former Canadian Freestyle Team member, current high-flying terrain park hellion.
Mike Rogan Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Demo Team member.
Brad Holmes former World Junior mogul champion, freeskiing bad boy.
Tommy Moe Olympic gold and silver medalist.

Michel Beaudry, a veteran SKI contributing editor, first posed the question: To celebrate the turn of the century, why not gather today's most influential athletes for a week of skiing and spirited discussion at Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C? The invite list included skiers of different disciplines and generations, and Beaudry served as moderator. In January, SKI will present complete coverage of what happened on the hill and at the table. In the meantime, here's a glimpse of what's to come. Following the third day on Whistler's slopes, the athletes settled into a suite at the Chateau Whistler and Andy Bigford, SKI editor-in-chief, posed this question:

"What is your greatest skiing accomplishment?"

J.P. Auclair The first ski movie I saw was Glen Plake in Blizzard of Aahhhs. When I figured out that's what they do for a living, I couldn't believe it. I started dreaming about doing what I'm doing now. So my answer is "my whole life."

Phil Mahre In 1983 I was told that I'd never win the World Cup if I didn't run super G a new, controversial event that Mahre boycotted. I not only won the World Cup that year, but I also won the GS title without running super G. It came down to the last race of the season. It was Ingemar Stenmark, Max Julen and myself¿whoever won the last GS would win the GS World Cup title. I won by a hundredth of a second over Julen, so it was a big one.

Lake Placid in 1979 was a lowlight because I shattered my ankle there. Most doctors, even Dr. Richard Steadman, said my career was over. "You probably won't walk straight, let alone ski," they said. To come back from that injury in less than a year and to win an Olympic silver medal Lake Placid 1980 was a major accomplishment. But all in all, just being a father¿and hopefully being half the father to my kids as my dad was to me¿will be the major accomplishment in my life.

Mike Rogan As an instructor I once had the opportunity to teach a 93-year-old guy how to ski. He had never skied. He just wanted to make one run down the beginner area with four generations of his family. As soon as the one run was over he said, "That's it, thank you very much, I've done it."

Wendy Fisher Mine would be the first World Extreme Skiing Championships that I won. I was standing at the top of the course and just thinking, "I'm going to win." I'd never, ever, ever in my whole ski career been that confident before. I thought, "Why didn't I believe in myself during my racing career?" I was learning all this stuff now, after I'd retired from the team. It was awesome to really believe in myself¿when I never did before.

Gordy Peifer I've had a dream ever since I was really little, just to be skiing all the time, and that dream has come true. I used to wear my season pass to school when I was in second grade, just thinking, "OK, I'm going straight from school to the ski area," and I'm so stoked. I'd pee in my pants instead of going inside to go the bathroom¿just to ski longer.

Chad Fleischer From a competition standpoint, being second recently in the World Cup Finals downhill was my highlight applause fis the room. I'd been waiting a long time. I skied with Tommy and AJ Kitt and Kyle Rasmussen and I've watched those guys have incredible successes. And sometimes being surrounded by that and not ever experiencing it yourself is really difficult. But I learned a lot from those guys and was able to take that and put it to use.

But the most satisfying thing for me involved my mom, who had brain cancer really bad. She was in a wheelchair and we had to totally take care of her. But then she went into remission. It was February, and all she wanted to do was go skiing¿and she did. And that was really cool. Really cool. That's probably the most incredible thing that I've ever seen, somebody just wanting to ski, somebody that ill.

Michel Beaudry She's passed away now?

Chad Fleischer Yes. She was my biggest fan.

Michel Beaudry Tamara?

Tamara McKinney That brings back some family memories, too. Probably for me, I was very lucky to have early success. If I had to single out one accomplishment, I'd probably pick an earlier one, winning the overall World Cup in 1983. That was the first year of super G and I decided not to boycott it because I could use all the starts I could get needling Phil Mahre. And that was the only year I had success in super G. I think I got a third and fourth. After that I had sporadic success. And also in those years I lost a bunch of my family: my dad... long pause my mom. My mom had that same killer condition of cancer, and watching that is a hard thing to do.

I had a brother who was manic-depressive and my mom was his anchor. She had kept him going. And he killed himself. I was in South America training, I was just starting to get better. It was in skiing that I really found my spirit. I found this alien kind of strength from the training, just trained my guts out; and then I came back and won two medals in the World Championships. I think my worst result in slalom that year was fourth. And I thought, you know, it scares people, that kind of a year. But I felt like I had that emotionally. I remember having the downhill run of my life, a third, and I remember standing on the podium and knowing that my mom was there and she was proud and she had that spirit of the mountains that I've got¿that thing.

Tommy Moe Surveying a roomful of emotion and trying to lighten the mood. Are we almost done yet? Laughter around the room. I was a total partier when I was 16, and I got kicked off the ski team. I was kind of branded for being, you know, a full burner and what not. But I knew inside that I had the ability and the athletic talent to get to the highest level¿and I did. I think my biggest accomplishments athletically were winning a World Cup super G here in Whistler and winning the Olympic super G. I mean, the gold medal in downhill was cool, but I've never won a World Cup downhill. Super G is the type of event where you look at the course and you study it and you look at the mountain and you just know it's a crap shoot because the person who takes the most risks wins. You don't get any training runs. It's like modern freeskiing: You look at your line and you either nail it or you don't. Even though it's a hybrid event, I still think it's one of the best.

Michel Beaudry So we have differing opinions here on super G?

Phil Mahre No, no, because super G has come a long way.

Michel Beaudry Brad, you're next.

Brad Holmes I knew when I was 9 years old that I was going to be a skier. That's all I ever wanted to be and that's what I became. Making the U.S. Ski Team when I was 15 was a huge thing for me, and I also was junior World Champion in moguls. But just being able to live the dream that I set out for in the beginning has been my accomplishment. I've done a lot of cool stuff on the way. I've been around the world. Done it my whole life long and will continue to do it as long as I can. Maybe in my next life I'll win a gold.

Donna Weinbrecht I'd have to say it's being a pioneer for a sport and having the opportunity to bring home the first gold medal in the moguls. I never felt, in a spiritual sense, more perfect as a person than in those four years building up to the 1992 Olympics. What was coolest was that I had about 60 friends and family come over. To have my skiing career bring them to places that I don't think they would have gone was special. I was so shy growing up. I was an introvert. No one had expected this out of me.a gold.

Donna Weinbrecht I'd have to say it's being a pioneer for a sport and having the opportunity to bring home the first gold medal in the moguls. I never felt, in a spiritual sense, more perfect as a person than in those four years building up to the 1992 Olympics. What was coolest was that I had about 60 friends and family come over. To have my skiing career bring them to places that I don't think they would have gone was special. I was so shy growing up. I was an introvert. No one had expected this out of me.

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