The 2002 Winter Olympics Games in Salt Lake City, suddenly made the United States a contender in the Winter Events. While the US have long since, dominated the summer games, its been held it bay every other four years. In 2002 Salt Lake City, US was bested by Germany 36-35 in the medal count. In 2006 in Torino, Italy, US was again bested by Germany 29-25 in medals. A closer looks shows us this. Germany dominated the US in one form of events: Cross Country Skiing. In 2002 it was 16 Nordic medals to 0. In 2006 it was 18 to 0. So, in the past two Winter Games, US has lost to Germany by 5 medals. In Nordic events alone, US has lost to Germany by 34 medals. Ouch.
I know, I know, Nordic skiing is that boring old sport you did once a year in gym class, with those ancient bamboo skis... you probably fell, ruined your jeans and had a horrible experience. But people actually make racing on XC skis a career. There are three main forms of events (kinda like speed skating and short track) Nordic Combined, which is a long jump and then a skate skiing race. Biathlon, which is a race, combined with a shooting range, you ski a penalty loop for every target missed. Then there's regular Cross Country. A straight up race, sprint (1.6 Kilometers) all the way to the 50 Kilometer marathon.
Germany unfortunately has one of the best cross country ski programs in the world, both men and women. The United States, does not. Matter of fact, the United States Cross Country program has one medal in its career, Bill Koch's silver in the 1980 games. While with the Van Couver 2010 games so short away, Germany's program will likely not hit the skids, and the United States isn't about to sweep the medals. But this is obviously something our nation needs to encourage and work on in a world level.
The United States only chance at a medal, is to hope the Scandinavian countries really show up in the Nordic events this year. While we probably won't see the US get a Cross Country medal, Johnny Spillane does have a World Cup Gold in Nordic Combined. If Spillane can get on the board or at least help keep the Germans at bay, it will help the US a lot.
We also need to continue our dominance in the speed-skating, snowboarding and alpine events. Without this Germany is sure to run away on us again.
Also note that the last four years, Germany has brought home the Men's World Cup Overall winner, doing this with three different individual skiers. 2004 was Rene Summerfeldt, 2005 was Alex Teichmann, 2006 and 2007 both went to Tobias Angerer. Not only is that three world class medal contenders, that's a relay team with quite the credentials list.
To all you sports fans out their and Nordic Skiers a like, I encourage you not to look at the sport in disdain. It is arguably the most physically challenging sport there is, some races are sheer super marathons (The Swedish Vassaloppet is 180K). This coupled with the emphasis on daily technique and training make it truly a marvelous sport. For the US to ever truly dominate the Winter Games we must first develop a program in these events. There are too many medal spots that we are giving away each year. Do what you can, encourage your school to start a team, and encourage your local racers to train harder, or simply read up and enjoy the sport.
For more information on all ski events at the World Cup level. www.FIS-SKI.com
And for more information on American Nordic Skiing try www.Fasterskier.com
Hope this was insightful, Go USA!