WHITEFISH, Mont. (AP) – It’s not a goal to Bill Marolt until it’s written in ink and hanging on the wall.
That’s why the U.S. Ski Team president predicted American skiers and snowboarders will win 10 medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Marolt issued the forecast almost five years ago when he took over the team.
“We sat down as a staff and we wanted a realistic goal,” Marolt recalled. “It had to be something that wasn’t stretched. We didn’t want something that we knew we could do.”
He certainly raised the bar. The best Olympic medal count by the U.S. Ski Team was six at the 1998 Nagano Games. That included three freestyle medals, two by the snowboarders and one in alpine.
Then again, Marolt said you shouldn’t compete if you don’t intend to win. One of his first jobs, he said, was to refocus the mission statement. He was concerned the ski Team took on too many personalities over its history.
“Sometimes, we thought of ourselves as a fund-raising organization, sometimes as a p.r. organization, sometimes as an event organization and sometimes as an athletic organization,” he said.
Marolt brought his experience as a U.S. skier in the 1960s, as a ski coach who won seven NCAA titles at Colorado from 1969-78 and as director of the U.S. Alpine program from 1978-84.
Throw in his job as Colorado’s athletic director from 1984-96, and Marolt said he wanted to run the ski team, with its $22 million annual budget, like a Division I athletic program.
“We wrote it down on paper, that we’re an athletic organization,” he said. “We’re still going to do a great job raising money, selling, all of those things, but those are all done in support of the athletic mission.”
A football coach influenced Marolt to put goals in writing and share them with anyone willing to listen. At Colorado, Marolt worked closely with former Buffaloes coach Bill McCartney.
“He always said if you’ve got goals, you’re not really committed to them unless you put them up on the wall,” Marolt said.
Colorado won a share of the national title in 1990, and Marolt feels the McCartney approach can produce a medal haul in Salt Lake City: “three in alpine, three in freestyle, three in snowboard and one in Nordic combined.”
If the athletes perform well, it’s not a dream.
The alpine team had a strong season, highlighted by Daron Rahlves winning the men’s super-G world title. There was a breakthrough World Cup win by Kirsten Clark in the women’s downhill.
Erik Schlopy was second in the men’s giant slalom at this month’s World Cup finals and third overall for the season in that event.
Picabo Street, the women’s super-G gold medalist at Nagano, remains as fiery as ever, determined to return to the Olympic podium following a horrific crash that kept her off skis for 18 months.
Aerialists Joe Pack and Nagano gold medalist Eric Bergoust are strong contenders, and another freestyle medal could come from moguls specialists Evan Dybvig, Hannah Hardaway or two-time World Cup champion Ann Battelle.
Snowboarders Rosey Fletcher, Chris Klug and 1998 Olympic bronze medalists Shannon Dunn and Ross Powers could contribute, and Todd Lodwick is a possibility in Nordic combined.