John F. Russell: Too soon to think about the Olympics? |

John F. Russell: Too soon to think about the Olympics?

— There are roughly 1,348 days left until the 2014 Winter Olympic Games kick off in the Caucasus Mountains near Sochi, Russia, but the work already has begun for the next class of hometown Olympic hopefuls.

My guess is that there will be a number of Steamboat athletes in Nordic combined, snowboarding and freestyle skiing who will be looking for spots in 2014. But many people in Steamboat Springs are wondering whether an Alpine skier from Steamboat Springs will step into the spotlight in Russia.

Last week, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Max Marno learned that he has been promoted to the U.S. Ski Team's development squad. He joins his sister, Anna, who was named to the team last year.

The announcement is a positive sign for the SSWSC's Alpine skiing programs and a bright spot for folks in our town who follow and support Alpine ski racing. However, making the development team is a long way from being named to the U.S. Olympic Ski Team. This is simply a starting point for these young skiers.

Throughout the next several years, Max and Anna will attend camps and try to earn the points they need at regional, national and NorAm skiing events. They will attempt to keep the ground they have earned while hoping to move up the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team. Hopefully, they will get a shot at the World Cup level in the near future.

It will not be easy. The young skiers will have to pay for the opportunities they get, hold off on their college careers and hope that the ski racing gods are smiling on them. It will take hard work, skill and a whole lot of luck. It will also take money. Max and Anna's dad told me it costs about $22,000 to be on the development team for a year. The Marno family will need to double that next year, so both children can pursue their skiing dreams.

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For those who successfully complete the journey through the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team, a trip to the mountains that surround the Black Sea will be in order. But only the lucky few will be invited: athletes who have fought through the ranks and proven they have what it takes to contend for Olympic hardware.

In a town such as Steam­boat Springs, which has produced more Olympians than any other town in America, getting a shot at an Olympic medal seems routine.

But it's not.

There are thousands of skiers across the U.S. who will tell you that there are no guarantees and that earning a spot on the U.S. Ski Team is no easy task.

Max and Anna Marno have taken the first steps toward their goal of representing their country at the Olympics, but it's important to remember that there is still a lot of work, and a lot of days — 1,348 of them — before the Olympics begin.

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