U.S. skiers looking to punch ticket to Vancouver Games train in Breckenridge | SkyHiNews.com

U.S. skiers looking to punch ticket to Vancouver Games train in Breckenridge

Bryce Evans
Summit County correspondent
Grand County, Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE – Joe Discoe knows exactly what drives him during his preseason workouts with the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. It’s a date: Feb. 14, as in the first day of the Olympic men’s mogul competitions.

And Discoe knows that with every extra set of plyometrics or core drills, he could be one step closer to Vancouver.

“Sometimes when it’s a tougher workout and you’re feeling yourself fail, you know you’ve just gotta push it and push it and be stronger,” Discoe said. “It definitely helps out to think about it coming up.

“You’ve got to go harder than anyone else.”

Though Discoe is one of the newer members of the team, only in his second season, he’s no different than any of the other U.S. skiers in wanting to represent his country at the 2010 Winter Games.

“It’d be great, just a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics. Nothing else would be more satisfying.”

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Well, Discoe and a slew of his teammates have been preparing to do just that during their fall training camp in Summit County. The team has been staying in Breckenridge, working out at the Breckenridge Recreation Center and skiing wherever the snow is good.

“The rec center here has definitely been amazing,” said Ani Haas, who’s in her second year with the team. “I feel it’s definitely a help here as opposed to other camps we have. Most places we go, we don’t normally have facilities like this. It’s really, really important to our training.”

The team has been using the center nearly every day for the past couple weeks.

“There’s not a lot of snow right now, so this is a key element of what we have going on,” Scott Rawles, the team’s moguls coach, said. “Our days on the hill are a little shorter than they’d normally be, and this facility has everything we need.”

Rawles said his athletes have individual daily programs set up by the U.S. Ski Team’s strength coach. The skiers have been focusing on retaining the strength they built over their summer workouts while improving their fitness level for the start of the season.

“At this point, we’re not looking to gain strength,” Rawles said. “If it hasn’t happened at this point, then it probably isn’t going to happen. Our main focus is on skiing right now and jumping and getting ready for the season.”

Most of what the team is doing in the rec center is focused around recovering from the on-snow sessions. The skiers will often ride stationary bikes or hit up the center’s pool for an hour or so.

The lifting the team does do is simply Olympic-style lifting and core work. Again, the skiers are simply trying to retain what they’ve already built up.

On snow, the team has skied every local area from Copper to Keystone to Arapahoe Basin to Breckenridge. Though the lack of snowfall in recent weeks has made hitting any moguls an impossibility, the team has been focusing on form skiing.

“It’s good to get on snow, even if it’s just flat skiing,” Discoe said. “You can really work a lot of technique when you don’t have moguls or a lot of jumps to jump on.”

The team should get some better conditions before it heads out on the 23rd, beginning its stretch run to the Olympics.

Of the 23 men and women on the U.S. team roster, only eight will make the Games – four men, four women. One male and one female skier automatically qualify through a U.S. Ski Team competition on Dec. 23. The rest of the squad is likely to be announced on Jan. 25, Rawles said.

“We’re competing against our teammates for spots, so it does get pretty competitive, and we just want to get the best training we can,” said Hannah Kearney, who finished 22nd in the 2006 Olympics.

For Kearney, she’s hoping her experience can help her push through to gaining a spot in Vancouver and ultimately winning a gold medal.

“The fact that I got to go and that I’ve been there, it’s a comfort to know that I’ve been through it,” said Kearney, a World Cup champion. “I didn’t handle the pressures well and had a horrible result, but regardless of what happened there, I’ve learned from it, I’ve survived and I’m still skiing. I’m a better athlete for it, four years older and four years more of competition under my belt.”

Through her experience, Kearney knows not to get ahead of herself. So, for now she’s just focused on the task at hand in Breck.

“The ultimate goal is to make the Olympic team and win a gold medal, but it’s baby steps along the way,” she said. “There will be plenty of obstacles on route to that.”

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