Big Mountain, MT, Mar. 21, 2001--Springtime temperatures notwithstanding, everything is set for Friday's opening of the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships at Big Mountain, just outside Kalispell.
ESPN will broadcast coverage of the championships April 6 at 4 p.m. EST and April 7 at 4 p.m. EST.
Newly crowned world super G gold medalist Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) and Olympic SG champion Picabo Street (ParkCity, UT) plus Erik Schlopy (also Park City) will be joined by 250 or more racers and the glittering members of the ChevyTruck Return of the Champions VII. In addition to alpine Olympic and World Championships medal-winners, the Return ofthe Champions will honor the 1968 Olympic Team.
"The course is really good," men's Head Coach Bill Egan said Wednesday after the second day of downhill training, "and thesnow is good, and I'm really impressed by what I've seen so far. This is an outstanding site for nationals and these shouldbe outstanding championship races."
Street led the women's training for the second day in a row while Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) finished just ahead of Rahlvesand first-day training leader Marco Sullivan (Tahoe City, CA).
A FIS-level downhill race, giving young skiers a chance to compete against most of the top U.S. Ski Team racers, will beheld Thursday at Big Mountain with the championships starting Friday. The schedule:
Friday (March 23) - Men's and women's downhill
Saturday - Men's super G
Sunday - Women's super G
Monday - Men's giant slalom
Tuesday - Women's giant slalom
Wednesday - Men's and women's slalom
The Return of the Champions is not only a reminder of the U.S. Ski Team's lengthy history of success but an annualopportunity to honor a select team or group in addition to giving athletes a chance to socialize with Ski Team alumni.There also is a fun giant slalom with teams comprised of past and current athletes.
While World Cup veterans will be balancing a chance to catch their breath at the end of almost five continuous months oftravel and competition, up-and-coming skiers will be looking to impress national team coaches. It's a rite of passage forany racer.
One leading athlete will be missing at Big Mountain: two-time Megan Gerety (Anchorage, AK), who missed last season withaching knees but rebounded this winter for one of the best years of her career, crashed during a Super Series downhill aweek ago and was sent home by Coach Jim Tracy with orders to rest. She suffered no serious injury, but as Tracyexplained, "Megan needs time off skis and a chance to let her knees rest."
"I'm going to be looking at the youngsters," Egan said. "I'm fired-up to see who's out there and how they do against the topguys. Daron and Erik and Chad Fleischer, Vail, CO won't be at the same level as if they still were on the World Cup, butthey don't want to get beaten, either.
"The guys who have a lot to show are the young guys. I've seen some things that've impressed me already, but I'm going tobe watching everything. This is the time young racers get to show what they can do."
Following the championships, the men's slalom finals for the Chevy Truck Super Series will be held March 30-31 on the2002 Olympic course at Utah's Deer Valley Resort.