With the Olympics in Sochi over, the world has come down a little bit from the drama, edge-of-seat race results, joy, heartbreak, and all the hub-bub emanating from Russia in February.
Now that a couple of weeks have passed for some reflection, we asked Doug Lewis, an Olympic ski racer, former downhill racer, NASTAR pacesetter, and current alpine analyst for the Universal Sports Network, to share some of his impressions from Sochi and the performance of the US Ski Team.
Lewis spends his winters analyzing racing all season, and in the off season runs ELITEAM camps to promote the importance of dry-land training and help dedicated ski athletes make the most of training. Lewis is well acquainted with the hours, days, and years of full-time effort it takes to even make it to the Olympics as a skier. Here, he helps explain, among other things, why some of the things that the mainstream media can fixate on – such as subpar conditions – are things that don’t phase world-class athletes.
What were your impressions of the venues and courses created for the alpine skiers?
As an Olympian myself, the Olympics are first about the competition between the best, most committed athletes on the planet. The organizers in Sochi made sure of that by creating the most challenging Olympic courses I have ever skied or seen. I loved both the men's and women's downhill courses, as they had all the elements of a great downhill: steeps, flats, jumps, speed, length, terrain and danger.
Amongst the alpine skiers, the US racers took some heat from the mainstream media for not winning all the medals expected. What is your take on the performances at Sochi?
The Olympic alpine races are two minutes out of every four years so it is not only tough to peak at the right time, but in alpine racing there are many, many variables that are out of the racer's control. So I think the USST's five medals are a big success.
Ted and Mikaela came through with clutch performances with all the pressure riding on their backs – more so since at the Olympics the favorites rarely win. Julia Mancuso rose to the occasion once again to grab a medal as an underdog, and Andrew Weibrecht scored the biggest upset since Vancouver. And finally, even though Bode's emotional roller coaster in Sochi provided only one medal, every time he left the start, the world was holding their breath.
There was a lot of focus on the changing conditions on the courses. What is your take on that?
Ski racing is an outdoor sport and the athletes deal with tough and changing conditions every week. Sochi's warm weather did affect the athlete's tactics, and gave the manufacturers fits, but in every race, the best skier won and everyone had a chance at a medal. Part of becoming a champion is dealing with conditions, making adjustments, and taking the risks necessary to win.
Were you tempted to adopt any of the famous stray dogs?
I saw a lot of stray dogs while there, but interestingly, none of them looked skinny or hungry or in bad shape. So, I think they may be strays, but taken care of by the folks living there.
You've stayed very involved with racing and skiing since you stopped racing World Cup - what does it mean to you to be a part of NASTAR and ski with WME, both of which are big supporters of ski race athletes and the ski racing scene?
I have been lucky enough to be featured in a few Warren Miller films and to have spent some time with Warren himself. I have also had the privilege to be a NASTAR pacesetter, and seen firsthand what this great program can do for young ski racers. NASTAR provides an avenue for young ski racers to pursue their dreams, and WME inspires every skier to push their limits so that one day they may have the chance to ski in a Warren Miller Movie!
As a former US ski team athlete, how do you impress the importance of complete training?
After retiring from ski racing, I wanted to share my knowledge of sports physiology, psychology and nutrition with young ski racers who have dreams of making the US Ski Team. And now, 23 years later I am still inspiring young athletes to learn about their sport and to push their limits. At ELITEAM we teach athletes the tools they need to pursue their dreams on the slopes. We show them that success comes from setting goals and then working hard to attain them. ELITEAM is proud that two of our alums, Mikaela Shiffrin and Liz Stephen competed in the Sochi Games!