Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Park City, Utah Alan Alborn wanted to get his mind off ski jumping the night before he attempted to soar to an Olympic medal. So he went home and raced cars Tuesday night.
"Those things go about 100 miles an hour, man!" Alborn said moments after he leapt off the K-120 ski jump at Utah Olympic Park at a speed of about 65 mph. Alborn landed 118.5 meters down the hill, good enough to rank him eighth among the world's elite ski jumpers and qualify him for today's finals.
If auto racing seems an inappropriate activity for the night before the Olympic finals, consider that the speedsters Alborn was intent on were 6-inch-long slot cars.
"I'm going to race cars tonight," Alborn said. "I spent three hours racing my (sports) psychologist last night."
Alborn might want to invite teammate Clint Jones to get behind the wheel, too. Steamboat Springs' Jones also qualified for today's finals, placing 34th. Jones' qualifying jump was 111.5 meters.
Two other Steamboat jumpers, Brendan Doran and Tommy Schwall, placed 57th and 65th, respectively. They did not qualify for today's rounds. Doran had a jump of 97 meters and Schwall traveled 85.5 meters.
The top qualifier was Polish ace Adam Malysz with a jump of 120.8 meters. World Cup leader Sven Hannawald of Germany was second at 119.1. Slovenia's Robert Kranjec was a surprise with the third best place of the day. He matched Hannawald's 119.1 meters but lost to him on style points.
As well as he jumped on Tuesday, Jones will need to crank it up a few notches when the jumping gets under way at 9 a.m. That's because the first jump of the day will cut the field of 50 down to 30 for a final jump that will determine the medal winners.
Jones said he had made some adjustments to his technique since failing to qualify for the finals of the K-90 competition on Sunday by the narrowest of margins.
"This was a lot better than the other day," Jones said. "All the Americans like jumping the big hill better anyway. We're using a different position in the inrun, and we're taking a higher line."
Translation: Jones and his teammates were attempting to describe a slightly higher arc through the air on Tuesday in an effort to get farther down the hill. The jumpers had none of the favorable headwinds they prefer to generate more lift; in fact, they had a slight tailwind that had the effect of pushing them down to the snow.
Doran said the air of Olympic Park was "like a vacuum," meaning he wasn't able to generate much lift.
Other ski jumpers Alborn will have to contend with today include Robert Cecon of Italy, who qualified fourth with a jump of 118 meters. Matti Hauttamaeki of Finland came next at 117.3 meters. Japan's Masahito Harada, competing in his fourth Winter Games, ranked sixth with a distance of 117.1 meters.
Alborn learned to ski jump in his home of Anchorage, Alaska, but moved to Steamboat to train with the Winter Sports Club. His parents, Dave and Mary, formerly owned a home in the Whitecotton subdivision south of Steamboat. They came to Utah from their home in Alaska, bringing a contingent of friends and relatives.
Dave Alborn credits Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Todd Wilson with mentoring Alan and teaching him the "V technique," which has transformed international ski jumping.