Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
Steamboat Springs It was a good sight seeing Anna Marno walk around Howelsen Hill on Tuesday evening.
The crutches were gone, the limp was gone, and Marno looked healthy and ready for the ski season. Just nine months after tearing her left ACL, Marno is continuing her climb up the U.S. Alpine Ski Team.
While talking with her, it also became apparent just how unique Marno is.
It’s not that she is much different from most girls her age. Rather, her spot on the Development Team of the U.S. Ski Team makes her unique.
That she has done it while training at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club makes it even more unrivaled.
Marno’s story reminded me of how the U.S. Alpine Ski Team still is the most revered in skiing sports. The long list of Americans who have dominated the sport lives in winter lore.
Billy Kidd, Jimmy Huega, Phil Mahre, Bill Johnson, Tommy Moe, Ted Ligety, Picabo Street, Deb Armstrong and Julia Mancuso are just a few.
Lindsey Vonn may be one of the three most popular female athletes in the country. Bode Miller has been universally praised and scorned at the highest levels for doing things his way.
There are four times more spots on all the levels of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team than any other American skiing sport. Still, it’s one of the toughest teams to make.
Take Steamboat and Marno as an example.
Marno’s chances of moving up the ladder from Development Team to C Team to B Team and eventually to the A Team are tough.
It’s not that Marno’s not a phenomenal skier and racer. Coaches rave about her ability to attack and be aggressive as well as her desire to go all out. They say those are qualities that it takes to make it at the next level. But numbers aren’t on Marno’s side.
In Steamboat, we’re used to seeing athletes succeed at the highest level. A look at the Nordic combined, freestyle moguls and snowboarding teams shows multiple Winter Sports Club members’ names on those national team lists.
Those teams have the utmost advantage of training in Steamboat, where their sports feature some of the best facilities in the nation.
In Steamboat, Alpine skiers don’t have that advantage. Howelsen is a world-class slalom venue, but Alpine skiing is more than just slalom. It’s why someone making the Alpine team here is something that should be admired.
Steamboat has had its share of top Alpine athletes. Caroline Lalive was a skier at the top of the sport. David Lamb briefly made the top level of the U.S. team before going on to win national championships at the University of Denver.
The competition, the watchability of the sport and what it took athletes to get there are why the Alpine team still holds our collective attention.
It’s why Marno’s recovery and subsequent chase toward the top should keep us all paying attention.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com