John Russell's sports column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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The Sochi Olympics still are more than three years away.
Nobody is thinking about what is going to happen in the days after the Opening Ceremonies of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Russia. Nobody is thinking about who will win the medals and who will grab the spotlight. Nobody cares about the Olympics yet, right?
While most Americans are wondering who will win the Super Bowl in February, if the Nuggets or Avalanche will make the playoffs in 2011 or if the Broncos can build a competitive team, there is a group that never stops dreaming of the Olympics.
This group is looking past the next 365 days dreaming of their day on a snow-covered slope on a mountainside in some remote place in Russia.
The rising stars of tomorrow are not counting every day, but most of them understand that they have 1,145 days left to leave their mark.
They understand that they will need to separate from the pack and earn the right to represent their country at the Winter Olympics.
In the big picture, that’s a lot of days, but every Olympic athlete knows those days will fade faster than the color of a Rocky Mountain sunset.
The opportunities will be limited, and timing will be the difference between success and failure.
This week in Steamboat Springs, hundreds of promising athletes will find those opportunities on the slopes of Howelsen Hill and Steamboat Ski Area.
These races will not determine the next group of Olympic hopefuls, but they are another stop along the road that leads to Olympic glory.
This week’s Holiday Classic FIS races don’t rise to the World Cup or NorAm level, but they do provide a starting point for many of tomorrow’s top Alpine skiing sensations.
The races opened Saturday and will include four events providing a place for future stars to earn the points in the next three days. This is where the next Lindsey Vonn will gain the experience needed to fuel her Olympic dreams.
Today, Tuesday and Wednesday freestyle skiers will be hoping to post top results and earn a spot on the U.S. Ski Team during the freestyle selection events. These competitions will let promising young skiers know what this season holds for them. For some, there will be a promotion to the U.S. Ski Team and possible World Cup starts, for others, there will be a place on the NorAm tour, and some will head back to divisional levels to fine-tune their skills.
For snowboarders, the chance to climb the stars of the national team ladder, and prove they are international contenders, will take place Monday and Tuesday during NorAm-level Race to the Cup events at Howelsen Hill.
For these athletes, these events mark a few days in a journey that has thousands. For the rest of us, it’s a chance to take in what the Olympics are about without jumping on a plane, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and emptying our bank accounts on a trip to Russia.