PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - U.S. ski team members and coaches on Tuesday said they are confident that the hard, fast snow in Pyeongchang will allow them to bring their “American style” of skiing to the pistes of Pyeongchang when they battle for gold this month.
U.S. men’s Alpine skiing head coach Sasha Rearick said he encourages his team to ski to their strengths, even if that means bucking conventions, and said the conditions are ideal for the team to showcase their individuality.
“It’s a fun snow to ski on where you can really express yourself,” Rearick told reporters. “The American style of skiing is a different expression.
“Our strength is we allow the athletes as they’re developing to express themselves in a free way and this is a place where we can lay down some runs we are proud of.”
One advantage for the team is that the speed courses have been prepared by fellow American Tom Johnson, known to the ski world as ‘The Cowboy’, who also prepares the snow for World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colorado, home of infamous Birds of Prey course.
“He does it just like he does in Beaver Creek and it’s the same way we prepare the snow in a lot of our training venues,” Rearick said.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, fresh off a morning of skiing on a dry, sunny day in Pyeongchang, said knowing Johnson holding the reins gives him and the team added confidence.
“The surface at Beaver Creek is always our favorite surface on any World Cup hill so having it prepared similar to that is definitely a nice advantage,” he told reporters.
“It’s a surface that’s always treated me really well and free skiing on the training slope today, the snow felt great.
“If the race hill is similar that, it should be good.”
Despite their confidence, the U.S. Alpine team is reeling from a spate of key injuries.
Veteran Steven Nyman injured his left knee during a training run late last month and will miss the Games as will downhill and super-G racer Jackie Wiles, who injured her left knee during a crash in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany on Saturday.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; editing by Sudipto Ganguly