Bet on Battelle

U.S. Ski Team member looking for fourth visit to Olympics

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— For someone who could potentially make her fourth Olympic appearance this February, Ann Battelle offers few clues about her successful career as a moguls freestyler.

"We don't really spend a lot of time talking skiing," said Battelle's husband, Sascha Ayad.

"You would not expect that in the house of a skier of her caliber.

"If you walked in the house and you looked very carefully, you would not think anybody here skied. (But) if you look in the garage, there are 15 pair of skis."

Although Battelle has a large trophy collection, she keeps only two small wood-carved trophies on display, she said.

Battelle, a member of the U.S. Ski Team who moved from Steamboat Springs to Louisville about two years ago, has had a storybook career as a moguls skier.

Her biggest victory came in 1999 when she captured the World Cup moguls championship. The same season, Battelle won a gold medal at the world championships in Switzerland.

She collected a bronze medal in the dual moguls at the 1999 world championships.

At age 33, Battelle is a favorite to return to the Salt Lake Olympics.

"I think she is pretty much a solid contender," said Bobby Aldighieri, former head moguls coach at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"I think Ann has always been a really mature competitor and that is why she has been to three Olympics."

Although Battelle is recovering from a shoulder injury, she says her rehabilitation has gone well since undergoing surgery. She says the shoulder is back to about 85 percent.

She dislocated her shoulder last September while training at Mount Hood, Ore.

"I did a jump and I landed a little bit short and kind of did a flip and landed on my shoulder," she said.

Although the injury kept her out of competitions most of last season, Battelle said it gave her a chance to spend more time with her new husband.

Battelle suffered the injury three weeks before she and Ayad got married. She wore a sling during the wedding.

The couple, who were married in Battelle's home state of Vermont, met nine years ago.

They dated for seven-and-a-half years before they got married.

"I met her in the summer," Ayad said. "A friend had offered to watch my dog one morning.

"I got there and there was a woman in the driveway knitting. I got closer and was not sure if I had the right house. I'm like, wow, she's kind of cute.

"In 1992, there were not that many pretty women in Steamboat. We kind of chit-chatted."

Several weeks went by, Ayad said, before he saw Battelle again. This time, Ayad was skiing with some friends in Steamboat when he said he noticed an attractive woman coming down Rainbow ski run on Mount Werner.

"It turned out to be the same girl in the driveway," he said.

"Then, I saw her at the end of the year when she won nationals. Then, it finally all clicked. It was the same person in the driveway, on the hill and in the newspaper."

On their first date, which was a mountain bike ride along the hot springs trail in Steamboat, Ayad wiped out.

"It was a quarter of the way down and on a side hill," Battelle said. "He basically had too much weight on his downhill and he almost ended up in the river. I thought it was hysterical. He handled it well, but I'm sure he was embarrassed."

Ayad fell hard, he said.

"We went up for a mountain bike ride to the hot springs and to the other side," he said. I pretty much fell down the embankment, ripped my bike shorts, the whole thing."

Ayad, who coached skiing for 12 years, now works as a project manager at an architecture millwork. He is originally from Buffalo, N.Y.

He believes his wife has an excellent shot to make it four in a row this winter. But like Battelle, Ayad has a modest outlook for next season.

"She is approaching the season as any other season," he said. "Her thoughts are, most likely, if she makes it, then great. If not, so be it.

"She realizes that even though her chances of success are high, there is no such thing as a shoe-in. I don't think she is so brazen as to assume that she has got anything wrapped up."

Said Battelle: "I don't really have expectations. Just to make the Olympic team is a big deal. I don't expect to make the Olympic team, but I definitely hope I'll make it. I'm definitely giving my all to go for it."

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