Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Steamboat Springs For the past 11 seasons Steamboat Springs skier Ann Battelle has helped to push the envelope of freestyle skiing as a member of the U.S. Ski Team.
But on Tuesday her days of pushing came to an end when Battelle officially announced that she would not be returning to the team this winter.
The news wasn't all that surprising to many locals who have followed her career, which began in Steamboat under the watchful eye of Park Smalley.
"Donna (Weinbrecht), Ann and Liz (McIntyre) were a big part of the freestyle movement in this country for women," Smalley said. "They conditioned hard off the course, pushed the limits on the course and helped get the sport to that next level. Women's freestyle skiing wouldn't be where it is today without those skiers."
But when both Battelle and Weinbrecht announced their retirements Tuesday, it marked the end for that generation of skiers.
"I just decided that I wasn't going to be skiing for four more years, so anything this season would be kind of anticlimactic," Battelle said from her home in Boulder. "I've done everything I want to do as a member of the U.S. Ski Team except for getting that elusive Olympic Medal and that wasn't going to happen."
Battelle was a four-time Olympian, a two-time World Cup Champion and won seven World Cup events and six national championships before last season. She was third in her final international event at the World Cup Finals in Finland and placed fourth at the National Championships in Idaho.
"When Ann first came to Steamboat, I thought there was no way she was ever going to be an Olympic-caliber skier. But after a year, my opinion changed," Smalley said. "She just had so much desire and worked so hard."
Those characteristics were a trademark of the skier's career, which didn't even start until after she had graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. She came to Steamboat where she learned the basics from Smalley.
Three year's later she was on the team.
"She wasn't the most talented skier I've ever worked with, but she had a desire that I've never seen in any other skiers I've coached. She worked hard for everything she got."
Battelle had toyed with the idea of coming back this season and competing in the World Championships, which will be held in Deer Valley. However, at the age of 34 she had come to terms with the fact she wouldn't make it to the next Olympics, which are scheduled for Torino, Italy in 2006.
"My time had come," Battelle said. "I started last season really slow and I had to work really hard for everything last year. At the start of the season I was just worried about qualifying for the World Cup Tour and I didn't even know if I would make it to the Olympics."
Battelle said she made a choice following a disappointing performance at the Steamboat Springs World Cup to be totally committed to making an Olympic run. She said it paid off on the slopes with one of her best seasons. The only real disappointment may have been here seventh-place finish at the Olympics.
"She might be disappointed by her Olympic finishes," Smalley said. "But after what she accomplished on the World Cup level she has nothing to be disappointed about."
Battelle was one of the few freestyle skiers to make it through her career without any major knee injuries, but she didn't come through untouched.
In recent years, she said the training and competing had started to take a toll on her body. She had overcome several painful injuries over the years, including a shoulder injury in September of 2000, just three weeks before her wedding.
This summer, Battelle decided the time to move on with her life had come. She plans to help coach the women's freestyle team at the University of Colorado this winter, and she and her husband are expecting the arrival of the their first child.
Battelle was just one of several big-name athletes to retire from the freestyle team since last season. Weinbrecht, Jonny Moseley and Garth Hagar also stepped down.
Other athletes with Steamboat ties who retired include ski jumper Brendan Doran, and Nordic combined skiers Matt Dayton and Kris Erichsen.