Crash puts damper on U.S. ski team training session at Copper Mountain
November 20, 2009
COPPER MOUNTAIN – It wasn’t exactly the ideal morning of training for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team at Copper Mountain on Thursday. Sure, the snow was pretty good, and the team had a GS course all to itself, but the session ended with one skier being carted down the hill in a sled.
Resi Stiegler hooked her ski on a gate during a training run and was sent crashing to the ground, injuring her left leg. She was later helped into an ambulance at Copper’s base and driven to a medical facility for evaluation.
The extent of her injury isn’t known, but the effect the crash had on her teammates was pretty obvious.
“My heart breaks for her,” said Kaylin Richardson, 25, of Minnesota. “We don’t know what happened, but whenever anyone falls and is injured … you’re just bummed for them.
“It’s the worst part of ski racing, but it just kind of goes with the territory.”
It’s also something that happens fairly regularly.
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Veteran team member Sarah Schleper of Vail took a tumble Thursday but was fine. Schleper, who is beginning to regain her form after time off to give birth to her son, Lasse, continued her training after the crash.
“We’ve all been in that situation, and we know our risks when we’re doing it,” she said. “I try to not think about getting hurt.”
Of Stiegler, Schleper said, “Watching your teammate go down like that is never good.”
The ending to the day’s final session put a damper on an otherwise productive day for the U.S. women’s team.
The team spent Wednesday and Thursday training at Copper in between World Cup stops in Levi, Finland, last week and Aspen on Nov. 28-29. The men’s team was at Copper on Wednesday, but shifted its training elsewhere for Thursday.
The women skied on Copper’s lower runs for downhill early in the morning, before moving up the mountain to GS course around 9 a.m.
Defending World Cup champ Lindsey Vonn took part in the team’s downhill session before taking the rest of the day off.
For Vonn, crashes at Copper aren’t anything knew. The Vail skier wiped out last year in a training run at Copper, putting her season’s schedule in jeopardy. She did return the following week, however, to race in the Winternational World Cup in Aspen.
Although crashing isn’t something Vonn thinks too much about, she did say that she chooses to error on the side of caution.
“For me, the most important part of training is to push the limits and get a good feel for the race speed,” she said. “If the course is deteriorating or getting too rough, then I definitely back off it a little bit.
“I’m always about safety first. I definitely want try to push the limits but only in a safe environment.”
Vonn said that she usually uses her first couple runs of the day to “really attack,” then she shifts it down a gear for the rest of the day.
“That way I’m still getting good training in but not putting myself in too big of risk to get injured,” she added.
Staying healthy and getting in good training runs is key for all the team’s skiers, as they gear up for the Olympic Winter Games in February.
Vonn said she hasn’t changed much in her training routine because of the Games.
“Ski racing is unique, it’s not like track and field where you might want to be specifically peaking for that one day,” she said. “For me, it’s just going to be about building confidence from each World Cup race and just trying continuously to do well. Good results for me equal good confidence. And that’s what I need going into the Olympics.”
Similar to Vonn, her teammates are also trying to not get too ahead of themselves in thinking about Vancouver.
“For me, it’s taking each race as it goes, and if it works out, it works out,” said Richardson, who finished 23rd in slalom at her first World Cup race of the year. ” … Everyone has it in the back of their heads, for sure. They’d be lying if they said it wasn’t.”
“If the stars line up, you can go for it,” Schleper added. “I just want to prepare myself to be racing at my top form at the Olympics and give it my best race and see what happens.”
The women’s team competes next in Aspen, before heading to overseas until the Games begin.
In the meantime, the skiers will be keeping up their training and simply trying to stay on their skis.
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