The relationship between the United States and Russia has always been tenuous, so this bit of news from Russia comes as a bit of shock:
The U.S. and Russian national ski teams are training together at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, where the alpine events for the Sochi Winter Olympics will be staged in February 2014.
The New York Times reported the details Monday, including the fact that the two ski associations entered into an agreement three years ago to cooperate and share global training facilities. Being able to practice on the future Olympic terrain that, according to the Times, is “heavily guarded by armed security personnel and remains closed to the public” is a huge advantage.
“It’s really cool to be here and get access to the hill one year early,” U.S. Ski Team member David Chodounsky told the Times. “It’s a good time to get the feel of the place, get the feel of Sochi, so when we come here next year we’re comfortable and we can bring our A game.”
But the benefits aren’t just one-way. The Russian Ski Team is finding that the cooperative agreement is helping its skiers prepare, and improve their training methods.
“We can learn a lot from the U.S. team, how they are preparing and their organization,” Russian Ski Team member Alexander Glebov told the Times. “It’s a big deal for our racers. Maybe we still have a lot to learn, but I think we are doing well. We have to start skiing faster and everything will fall into place.”
In exchange for the special access to the Olympic venue, the Americans welcomed the Russians to training camps in New Zealand, Austria, and Colorado, at Copper Mountain and Vail.
“The U.S. team has always had special kids,” Urban Planinsek, the Russian head coach, told the Times. “Just being around them is good for us.”
Ted Ligety, who won three gold medals at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, earlier this month, is among the Americans training in Russia this week. On Tuesday via Facebook, he posted photos of his practice run down the giant slalom course, calling it a 99-second leg burner.
Mikaela Shiffrin, who at age 17 became the youngest world champion in slalom in 28 years by winning gold a couple weeks ago, believes knowing what to expect for the Winter Olympics will help reduce stress going into the Games.
She called the tracks “pretty straightforward.”
“There is quite a bit of terrain, but it’s not really crazy,” she told the Times. “My first impression was that the venue won’t be a huge challenge, but we’ll see next year.”
Photo of Rosa Khutor is from Wikipedia. Photo of Ligety’s view of giant slalom course from Ligety’s Facebook page.