Athletes eager as first Steamboat World Cup nears

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In the next few days, 13 nations, 71 athletes and 35 coaches will begin arriving at Howelsen Hill for the Mountain Resorts Showdown at Steamboat -- the first World Cup B event of the season.

"It's about the same number of teams that came the last time we hosted a World Cup B event two years ago," co-chairwoman Kathi Meyer said. "Only the top 45 skiers in the world take part in the World Cup A, so this is a much bigger field."

American coach Dave Jarrett said the top of the World Cup B field isn't that different from the regular World Cup, the depth of talent is simply less.

"The best jumpers in B could finish in the top five of a World Cup A," Jarrett said. "The difference is that 15 to 20 guys are jumping very well on World Cup A."

Many of the teams that will compete in this year's event started filtering in last week as news of the winter storm that dumped a foot of snow on Steamboat began to spread internationally.

As a result of that storm, Steamboat's K-90 opened early last week, and the K-114 was expected to open as soon as crews where able to chop snow and shovel it into the right place.

"It's either feast of famine this time of year," Jarrett said. "We've been sitting around waiting for snow, and now we have too much."

The American Nordic combined B team, along with the Canadian and Japanese teams, came early hoping to pick up some pre-event training and to take part in the Rocky Mountain Division's Winter Start competition. The Americans, who will have 14 starting spots in this weekend's World Cup B event, used the Rocky Mountain opener as a qualifier for the extra World Cup B spots.

"It's great to get on snow," Jarrett said. "It's about a month late, but we are glad to be jumping again."

Jarrett said the American team has looked strong in its first week back. It's the team's goal to get at least two more skiers on the World Cup A circuit before the second period begins. The team will need to pick up some top finishes during the two events in Steamboat and several others scheduled for Lake Placid later this month.

The main American Nordic skiers will include familiar names such as Bill Demong, Jed Hinkley, Alex Glueck, and Brett and Eric Camerota.

Glueck is a native of Steamboat Springs, and Demong has lived here while training under former head coach Tom Steitz.

Jarrett said all five of his skiers are working hard to get to the World Cup A, but Demong is driven. He spent several years as one of the top skiers at the higher level, winning in 2002 in Liberec, Czech Republic, and has 18 top-15 finishes in his career.

"He had a really good summer, and I think he is feeling pretty good right now," Jarrett said. "If Bill has a good day during the World Cup B, he will be on the podium."

Jarrett would love to see Demong and a couple of his teammates on the podium in Steamboat during the opening event.

The Showdown at Steamboat will begin with training Friday. There will be a two-jump, 15-kilometer event Saturday and a one-jump, 7.5-kilometer event Sunday.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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