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Archive for January, 2010

US Olympic Team Selection – Recap

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

The US Olympic Cross-Country Ski Team was named yesterday, and as expected, consisted of the top four men and women on the USSA points list.

The process played out with a minimum of drama and controversy.  The process for qualifying for the team was laid out well over a year ago and the criteria clearly published.

There was nothing ambiguous about the process.  This is in strong contrast to some other countries where selection seems to be based entirely on coaches discretion.  Norway is one such country, Russia another.

Germany, on the other hand, has a very clear standard – and a darn tough one.  To make the Olympic team, a skier must have either a single top-8 World Cup result, or two top-15 finishes.  Either way, this is a high standard.  In fact, Germany won’t come anywhere near their Olympic quota of 18.  In fact, at this point, the team can be at most 13 strong.  It is not implausible, that after reallocation, The US and Germany could have very similar sized teams.

The US has both a clear system and attainable standards.  It seems many people have been confused by the coaches discretion clause in the qualification criteria.  I have received numerous emails and read many comments stating that skier A or skier B should have been named to the team using the discretionary clause.

This clause is in there for extraordinary circumstances, where an athlete who would have a significant impact on the team would not qualify based on the other criteria.

It is NOT there to put an athlete racing marginally better on the team.  The US Ski Team is interested in winning medals, and the system has resulted in all athletes with medal potential being on the team.

Every system of qualification will have issues.  There is no way to be 100% fair, and at some point there will be a situation where a less-deserving athlete qualifies.

But that is not the case this year.  The team that deserves to go to Vancouver is going.  Because ultimately it is not about who works the hardest or makes the most sacrifices.  It is about who skis the fastest during the qualification period – as measured by FIS points.  That is what the qualification critera state. Should this criteria be changed?  That is a discussion for another time, and one worth having, as it is always worthwhile to review and rethink.

We all have our personal favorites we were  rooting for, but emotions aside, I don’t believe anyone can make the argument that our medal chances are compromised by any one individual not making the team.

Hopefully the US will gain additional spots in reallocation, and several more athletes will get the chance of a lifetime – to compete in the Olympics.

Congratulations to everyone who made the team.  And congratulations to everyone who gave it their all, but came up short.

One Last Prediction – US Olympic Team

Monday, January 18th, 2010

With the final quota number in (for now) and the first round of the team named tomorrow, I thought I would weigh in on the possible selections.

In my mind it isn’t complicated.  I believe that the team will be picked off of straight points resulting in the following:

Men
Kris Freeman
Andy Newell
Torin Koos
James Southam

Women
Kikkan Randall
Liz Stephen
Morgan Arritola
Caitlin Compton

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for discretionary picks.  None of the skiers on the bubble will be competing for a medal, and none just off the team have been skiing at a level significantly higher than their points ranking.

The one place where I could be wrong is the break down between men and women.  There is no reason the team has to have equal numbers.

On the one hand, you can definitely make the argument that Garrott Kuzzy has more potential for a strong result than Caitlin Compton.  On the flip side, if you don’t take Compton, you don’t have a relay, and at this point, a women’s relay team actually has a better chance of a decent result than a men’s.

But it is very possible that in the quest for medals, no relay teams will be entered.

I’m going with four and four, but wouldn’t be surprised to see five men and three women.