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Skiers go for early Gold

Local event winners will make Oly team

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PARK CITY — One month before the first 2002 Olympic event, the U.S. Ski Team will use Utah's skiing venues to pick its first players.

Bill Marolt, ski team president and CEO, announced early Monday that the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup, a wild-card Olympic qualifying event, will be split between Colorado and Utah.

The Utah events will be held Dec. 29-31 at Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, Snowbasin and Soldier Hollow.

According to Marolt, winners of the alpine, nordic and freestyle events "will be named to the Olympic teams when those teams are named in late January."

The Gold Cup made its debut four years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., as a wild-card qualifying event for the Nagano Olympics.

"It worked so well," said Tom Kelly, vice president of public relations for the ski team, "we decided to hold it again, this time, where it was possible, here in Utah on the actual Olympic runs."

What makes this event so exciting, he went on to say, "is the mix of possible winners. You get people who are favored, some who are on the fence and some virtual unknowns."

Four years ago in Lake Placid, for example, Marc Gilbertson, a 28-year-old Vermont geography teacher, got the wild-card seat on the freestyle cross country team.

While the official team selection won't be made until late January for both the alpine and freestyle teams, winners of the various events will be certain of a spot on the Olympic squad.

"You'll have all the top American skiers here," continued Kelly. "Winning the wild-card seat will take a lot of pressure off the athletes. The whole month of January will involve some pretty intense competition leading up to team selections."

In Utah, the men's giant slalom will be at Park City on Dec. 29; the men's/women's cross country will be at Soldier Hollow Dec. 29; the men's slalom will be at Snowbasin on Dec. 30; the men's/women's moguls will be at Deer Valley on Dec. 31; and the men's/women's aerials will be held as a special New Year's Eve night-time event on Dec. 31 at Deer Valley.

Events in Colorado will be held Nov. 15-18 and will include the women's giant slalom, women's slalom, 120-meter ski jump and nordic combined sprint.

Because of World Cup scheduling, all of the events could not be held in Utah.

Other members of the freestyle and alpine teams will be selected based on their World Cup performances. Selection of the snowboard half-pipe team will be based on Grand Prix results and the snowboard dual-slalom on Grand Prix and World Cup finishes.

Because of the time required, there will be no downhill event. The slalom race at Snowbasin, however, will take on major significance since it will be the first major event to be held on the resort's combined slalom hill.

ABC Sports will televise four hours of the Gold Cup, and ESPN will air two hours. This will be the first time in about five years that ABC has aired a U.S. Ski Team event.


E-MAIL: grass@desnews.com