Wild Rumpus Sports

Wall Street Journal Takes a Stand on Behalf of Freeman

Three-time Olympian Kris Freeman, a longtime staple on the U.S. Ski Team until this year, was featured in an Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal editorial in which writer Matthew Futterman proclaims: “The USSA leadership has made some great decisions of late. But they made a bad call earlier this year when they cut former national champion Kris Freeman from the U.S. cross-country team.”

In the article, titled ‘The Skier Who Got the Cold Shoulder,’ Freeman explains the decision cost him thousands of dollars in anticipated travel expenses and $2,450 dollars a year directly from the U.S. Olympic Committee. He also has to mitigate his health-care costs, which aren’t cheap for someone with Type 1 diabetes on COBRA. The U.S. Ski Team did not name him to his 2013/2014 squad in April after more than a decade on the team.

“I was told that my trajectory was not what they were looking for,” said Freeman, 33.

“You fall out of the top 30 in the rankings, they’ll give you a second year, but if it happens two years in a row they cut you,” former teammate Andy Newell told the WSJ.

Now in his second season with the Maine Winter Sports Center, Freeman is still training hard for the Olympics and anticipates covering the costs of food and lodging on the World Cup circuit, which amounts to about $150 a day.

“Maybe getting cut off will prove advantageous,” Futterman writes. “There is a certain edge in Freeman’s voice these days. He seems determined to prove the USSA made the wrong decision.”

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  1. the reader comments on that WSJ article are clearly those of a handful of dumbasses. Can somebody with a WSJ account school those mf’s…?

  2. The comments on the WSJ article are DEAD-ON…get over it.

  3. Skipow – I read the WSJ article and comments. So what do the WSJ commenters need to be schooled about? Do they have to be schooled that an athlete not reaching goals that were clearly defined is not fair? Do they have to be schooled that it is unfair that health insurance is costly? Do they have to be schooled that someone who has chosen an obscure athletic pursuit for 15 years, while most people that are 33 have worked their asses off at jobs for 15 years, is having fiscal challenges, even with “mid 5 figures” of support, and that is unfair?

    Actually, I think WSJ readers, and people with common sense, are pretty well schooled on all of these questions. So I don’t get it skipow. Please shed some light on what “schooling” is needed. I anticipate that your response should be entertaining.

    The WSJ article was whiney. Freeman should never have agreed to let this go to print. It doesn’t help him.

    What will likely help Freeman is the revenge factor. The power of revenge in athletes is always underestimated. I hope Freeman, and Koos, harnesses this revenge power end up as the top-placing US males at the Olympics. That would be a good note to end a long racing career on. Freeman should focus on skiing and revenge. And not talk to reporters that just want to use him.

  4. Wow, nice Rant.

    Can we agree to disagree?

    Sure, booting him from the team is fair.

    I just don’t think it’s right that the uptight-republican readers of the WSJ can call him a whiner.

    Kris is the best skier in the country. I would even say that he worked hard at getting to that level, even with the small added challenge of having diabetes.

  5. National team is for athletes that perform and get medals at wc events, not people who get beat by minutes in every race. Kris should deal with it, there are many young skiers having to pay for their whole season that still have a shot at getting to the world cup, the spots should go the them and not an under performing master trying his best to break the top 40… Revenge… give me a break he should get a job and stop complaining about his lack of funds.

  6. It’s obvious that USA hates you Kris Freeman. Ski for some other country at Sochi or else go pump gas back in New Hampshire.

  7. highstream says:

    Kris Freeman carried U.S. distance skiing at the World Cup level *alone* for years, and did so as someone suffering from diabetes, as well as other health related issues. To perform at that level, while trying to compensate with different medical devices, dosages and training regimes, it seems ultimately without sucess, has been heroic. That’s recognized as such by just about everyone on the international and national level. At a certain point, however, any national program has to make a judgment, matching results with team membership and support, just as any national team would do with any athlete. I don’t know how the judgment was made or if it was the best, but on the face of it the decision to drop appears plausible. It’s darn impossible to come up with hatred out of all of this.

  8. The article is pretty misleading in that it implies Kris is no longer a top skier- that he is a “has been” and the comments on the WSJ site reflect that. Kris Freeman is still the top male distance cross country skier in the US so that is why it was so controversial that he got let go from the team. The people posting comments on the WSJ site don’t understand that- they think he didn’t perform and got cut. They don’t understand no else is performing at the top level in the US either(male distance). Kris has not had stellar results lately, but he is still the best skier in the country and as good or better than the other distance skiers who are still on the US team-that is what the article should have emphasized but didn’t.

  9. Sergei Ivanov says:

    Kris Freeman _is_ the best US distance skier. He carried USSA XC on his back for a long time. He also faces health challenges that require him to develop unique diabetes treatment protocols, which is doubly hard because insulin response changes year to year. In other words, the guy is at the forefront in every day, showing what commitment is.

    Also, at this stage of his career Kris focuses on figuring out how to medal, not just make red group. And with diabetes, the cost of missteps is much more than taking a day off to rest. It’s really hard on the body. The shame of USSA behavior is that knowing all that, they failed to treat their longtime MVP with respect.

    I would understand if there was a discussion early in the season and they said, look, you got to make red group or you’re out. But no, that didn’t happen. While Kris spent the season working to figure out how to medal next year, USSA had a budget meeting, had a shortfall and figured Kris would be a good cut because he didn’t earn enough points. That is disrespectful and I think Chris Grover (head coach) really embarrassed himself and USSA — I sure hope the dollar savings were worth it. No donations to USSA from me this year, even though my employer is matching.

    USSA just didn’t do the right thing. It’s that simple. It’s about organizational culture. The job of a leader is ensuring decision makers in the organization know how to do the right thing. Is anyone confused on whether Bill Marolt (USSA CEO) is about doing the right thing? Did he resign after getting arrested for drunk driving?

    Remember, this is the guy that changed the way athletes are named to the team after Bode Miller ostensibly embarrassed USSA sponsors by partying. And yet, when his own mug shot comes out, Bill Marolt, CEO of USSA (Mission: Best in the World!), calls his lawyer and gets off pleading to making improper lane change. Rather than saying, look, I got hammered, drove, luckily got stopped by Utah state patrol before killing anyone, so I’m be setting example for USSA athletes, sponsors and young people everywhere and resign after a great career.


  10. Well, I was going to comment when I first saw the post from skipow, but I waited. He did not take part in the 50K in what would have to be the biggest event of his career (last Olympics). That was pretty much the end I think. It was the end of Pete also.

    The fact is that Kris has a very serious disease. You have to live through it to understand how bad it is. To do as well as he has done is actually very impressive. However, it takes a lot of energy from all involved to make sure he doesn’t kill himself, pretty much every day. This had to have had an effect on the entire team.

    The women’s team seems completely different. With KR leading they are very confident, and very positive. Seems like they are having fun. That’s the way it should be for the men’s team.

    It was impossible for Kris to be the same kind of a leader, as he was never sure which Kris would show up at the starting line. You can do everything correctly and still end up with the blood sugar way too low, or too high.

  11. I, for one, need to mentally prepare myself for the onslaught of ignorant commentary that occurs during olympic years on the interweb with this sport. There are all kinds of “experts” out there and it’s kinda impossible to set the record straight.

  12. Ben Arians says:

    Way to set that record straight, skipow. Regardless, the WSJ article was a pretty poorly written piece of journalism, and surprisingly for the WSJ, sounded a lot like the “whiney lliberalism” that many readers of that magazine would attribute to other press outlets. There was a case for keeping Kris on the team as he is still the arguably best US distance skier, but with his relative lack of results over the past two seasons, there was a legitimate case for dropping him. Hard choice for Chris Grover to make, and I’m sure one he didn’t enjoy.

  13. I cannot blame the USST for dropping Kris. They have their metrics and whatever they are doing seems to be working better now than ever before. He will be fine. He has a support system, solid sponsors and still gets to race and will be representing the USA in Sochi.

    The greater issue is how the USOC support gets to the athletes. Why don’t all Olympic athletes have access to those if they are still on track to compete in the next Olympics? Kris should have access to USOC athlete health insurance and stipends.

  14. Does anyone not key in on the fact that Kris, although a fast skier is insufferable? He is arrogant, rude, and disrespectful. I recall a story of him doing intervals and screaming “get the F*$k out of my way!” to a little girl out on the trails. That is not the kind of behavior we need from our athletes. As was said above, the girls team is tight knit, and cohesive, they have fun and that is what our sport needs from the people we all look up to. Kris was never going to be that. I think the team just got sick of dealing with him rather than his results. He isn’t/wasn’t a team leader, he isn’t an ambassador to our sport, and he lacked any ability to be such.
    If he was crushing races and placing in the top of the field consistently there would be no question that he should stay on the team, but he was a midrange finisher and just not a fun person to be around. In my opinion he should have been let go years ago. I have never had a pleasant interaction with him over the 10+ years I have known him and I think Grover made the right choice. If he makes the Olympic team then he makes it, but the US Ski Team is not just about results, it is about being a TEAM. And Kris will never be a team player.

  15. Kate Powder 8 says:

    Andy Newell is the only US cross-country skier currently on the men’s “A” team. Hard for skiers to post solid results when they’re not truly invited to the party.

    Also, Bill Marolt’s 2010 salary is noteworthy:

  16. The fact that Freeman has diabetes should never come into play. Last time I checked the USA should support skiers with potential, not rude, slow and old skiers based on the fact that we pity them. Olympic medals are won based on who finishes first, it’s not a Lifetime Movie about overcoming adversity.

  17. Todd Eastman says:

    If any of these poster have anything to say, they should have the decency to use their actual names; freakin wimps!