Originally created 02/05/06

U.S. Alpine skiers aim for eight medals at Turin



The U.S. Ski Team is setting a bold goal for the Turin Olympics: winning eight medals.

"We've talked about being the best in the world and what we think we'll need to do that," U.S. Ski Team Alpine director Jesse Hunt said Thursday on a conference call. "In terms of numbers, it's eight medals, and so objectively that's what we're going to shoot for."

How ambitious is that target?

It's a larger haul than the seven medals America's Alpine skiers collected at the past three Winter Games combined - two silvers at Salt Lake City in 2002, one gold at Nagano in 1998, and two golds and two silvers at Lillehammer in 1994.

The best U.S. results since Alpine skiing was added to the Olympics in 1936 came at Sarajevo in 1984, when the team won a total of five medals, including three golds.

Hunt also set eight medals as a goal before the 2005 World Championships in Bormio, Italy; the U.S. Alpine skiers came home with six medals from that competition.

He said Thursday that sticking with an aim of eight medals for the Feb. 10-26 Turin Games is "absolutely" realistic, although he wouldn't make specific predictions about which skiers would win medals or what he thought the breakdown might be between the men's and women's teams.

"If you look at our results, our results are in a place where we can reach those goals. Management going forward is important, making sure that our athletes are prepared," he said.

"The goals help the whole process, in terms of focusing the athletes, the staff and so forth," Hunt added.

The squad got some bad news Thursday, when Caroline Lalive was sent home for tests on a left knee injury. She was hurt Wednesday when she landed awkwardly after a jump during World Cup downhill training at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Lalive has been to two Olympics.

"We don't know exactly what's going to happen in terms of Caroline's rehab," Hunt said.

By most accounts, this is the strongest U.S. Ski Team in years from top to bottom, filled with men and women considered capable of challenging for medals across the board.

"We've got probably the deepest team we've ever had," Erik Schlopy, headed to his third Olympics, said last year. "You've got guys that stuck around for a long time and are still doing well, like me and Daron (Rahlves). And you've got new guys that are coming up and having great results at a really young age. And you've got the guys in between."

Last season, Bode Miller became the first U.S. man in 22 years to win the World Cup overall title, though he's been inconsistent so far this year. He was the only Alpine skier from the host country to finish on the podium at the Salt Lake City Olympics, claiming two silvers, and could be a threat in all five disciplines at Sestriere next month.

Rahlves, Ted Ligety and Lindsey Kildow are also among the American skiers considered strong medal contenders this time around.

"This team is one of the most experienced teams we've been able to field. Fourteen of the athletes have prior Olympic experience. In terms of what they've been able to achieve over the course of the year in the World Cup, we're in great position to reach our goals in Torino," Hunt said.

"Eight of the athletes that are currently named to the team have won a World Cup (race) or medaled in the World Championships. That's a really good indication of the level we have on the team."