Olympic Preview

The world once again gathers in Turin, Italy for the 2006 Winter Olympics. From February 10th to the 26th, 2,500 athletes from 85 nations will assemble to participate in events ranging from the elegance of figure skating to the brain-rattling speeds of the skeleton. The games will also feature nine former Catamounts coaching and competing with the best in the world. While the world showcases its brightest talents there are many interesting plotlines to follow. Headline EventsSkiingOn February 18th, Bode Miller will be looking to capture a gold medal in the Men’s Super G competition. Miller will be up against fierce opponents including Hermann Maier of Australia. Maier, who won gold in 1998 at Nagano, (he missed the 2002 games due to a motorcycle accident) has an extra motivation to try and beat Miller this year. After dominating men’s alpine skiing for much of the last decade, Maier was bumped to #2 in the world by the New Hampshire native. Miller has something to prove as well in his run at the gold. Miller’s public image has come under fire recently after he stated that he often skied “wasted” during a 60 Minutes interview. Crawling back into America’s heart will be a difficult feat with Maier and others doing their best to stand atop the podium. LugeIf someone asked if they could lie on top of you as you both race down a chute of ice at 85 mph, you would probably decline. But then again, you’re probably not a world-class luge competitor. Representing the US in the two-man luge are Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin. The pair claimed bronze at Nagano, silver at Salt Lake City, and is looking to complete the set on the 15th; a medal of any color will make them the first US team to win medals in three consecutive Winter Olympics. The 6’1″ Grimmettte will lie on top and steer with his legs as the 5’8″ Martin guides the sled with his shoulders from the bottom position. The duo has been prolific in their history, winning three World Cup titles in the last eight years. The team will be craving to beat their German rivals, Alexander Resch and Patric Leitner who edged them out at the 2002 Winter Olympics by a mere 0.134 seconds. SnowboardingOnce again the Americans look strong in both the men’s and women’s events. Shaun White, the “Flying Tomato,” is the pop-favorite but will be competing against American teammates Danny Kass and Andy Finch. Who ever wins will have to throw the 1080 among a myriad of other gyrating tricks. The women’s halfpipe field is headlined by Vermonters with Hannah Teter and reigning gold medalist Kelly Clark favored to win. Another Vermonter, Lindsey Jacobellis, is a favorite in the snowboard crossUVM AlumniHockeyMartin St. Louis (’97) heads the list of Vermont Alumni competing this year. He will be competing in Italy as a member of Team Canada, the #1 seeded team in the Olympic hockey tournament. In 2004 St. Louis led the NHL in scoring and was named the MVP while leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Championship. While with the Catamounts, St. Louis had 267 points in his four-year career and was named All-American three times. St. Louis looks to aid his country with the help of seventeen other NHL all-stars, in attempting to repeat their gold-medal performance of 2002, a feat which many people think will be accomplished. Also in the hockey tournament is former Cat Aaron Miller (’93), currently a defenseman for the Los Angeles Kings. Miller will be assisting the sixth seeded Team USA in their bid for Olympic gold. Despite their low seeding, many still have high hopes for Team USA, citing previous examples when the team has won as an underdog (“Do you believe in miracles?…Yes!”). SkiingA three-time All-American at UVM, Lowell Bailey will be representing the United States in the biathlon, a mix of Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship. Last year Bailey led the Catamounts to a second place finish in the NCAA Championships. After his 2003 Biathlon World Championship season Bailey decided to ski at the collegiate level exclusively and finish his college career. In 2005 he graduated with degrees in political science and environmental studies. This is Bailey’s first trip to the Olympics, after missing the final spot on the team of the 2002 games by one place. Bailey is coming off of his best World Cup finish, a 29th-place finish in the pursuit and a 40th-place in the sprint. Bailey will be joined by fellow skier Jimmy Cochran who will also be making the trip to Italy as a part of the Men’s Alpine Team. They will have company as three former UVM coaches will be helping out with the ski team. The United States and Germany will again battle for the most medals. In Salt Lake City in 2002 the US finished just two medals behind the Germans. Watch for a strong showing from the home team Italy after a disappointing performance four years ago.