U.S. skiing team preps for events

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— The members of the U.S. Nordic combined team will arrive in Steamboat Springs in December with a clear goal.

"Our goal is to win," American development coach Dave Jarrett said. "We want to get as many of our skiers on the World Cup A as possible. Our expectations are high."

The event in Steamboat, a World Cup B much like Major League Baseball's minor leagues, is a proving ground where young athletes earn enough points to move up to the more competitive World Cup A circuit.

The United States hosts a three-stop series of World Cup B events that includes Steamboat Springs, Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid, N.Y. Steamboat previously had hosted a World Cup A event.

This year's series will start in Steamboat Springs with official training Dec. 9. The first competition, a two-jump, 15-kilometer event, will take place Dec. 10, beginning with the trial jump at 9 a.m. The cross-country race starts at 2:30 p.m.

Steamboat also will host a one-jump, 7.5-kilometer sprint event Dec. 11, with the first trial jump at 9 a.m. and the cross-county race at 1 p.m.

The ski jumping will take place on the HS127 (Steamboat's largest jump), and the cross-country race will take place at the base of Howelsen Hill with the start-finish line inside the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

The American team is expected to be made up of 14 athletes, including Carl Van Loan, Jed Hinkley, Alex Glueck, Eric Camerota and Brett Camerota. Jarrett said a break in the World Cup schedule in early December also could allow Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane or Bill Demong to start in the Steamboat World Cup B events. The U.S. Team can only start one of those skiers in each of the World Cup events, and Jarrett said the team hasn't announced which skiers will compete in the individual events.

Jarrett said this year's World Cup in Steamboat would take on added importance because of the upcoming Olympic Games. Jarrett said the U.S. Team is going to be selected off of the World Ranking lists. Because of this, he expects the competition at the Steamboat World Cup to be intense -- and not just among the countries.

"They all know what this competition means," Jarrett said about the American skiers. " Bill, Johnny and Todd are on track to make the team, but the rest of the spots are pretty wide open."

Jarrett thinks the competition within the team, and the upcoming Olympics, will bring more excitement to this year's World Cup B and said the ski fans in Steamboat Springs will be rewarded with a great preview of the February games.

"It's going to be a real dog fight to see who gets those spots," Jarrett said. "It will make for a great competition."

Jarrett expects a wide range of teams from around the world to be on hand for the events. Finland and Russia will not come to Steamboat.

"That's their choice," Jarrett said. "We can't worry about who is here, and who isn't," Jarrett said.

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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