Amy Donaldson, Deseret News
KEARNS — Wearing a red formal dress and foam tiara, two-time Olympic Alpine skier Stacey Cook wobbled a bit as she tried to slow down and make her way off the ice at the Utah Olympic Park Friday afternoon.
Red-faced and a little winded from her four-lap sprint, she dropped onto a bench and called to her teammates so she could offer them advice before they took the ice for their own races.
"Julia, you're going to be tired, so I think you should start fast," said Cook, who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. "And then just hang on. Oh, and don't try to cross over when you're tired. Wade just fell."
Wade Bishop, who is dressed as a deputy from the television show "Reno 911," is a speed coach for the Alpine women's ski team. Normally, he's all about helping Cook and her teammates improve. But this week, he's just another competitor for Cook and company.
That's because U.S. Ski Team coaches and athletes are finishing up a week of training camp with a three-day triathlon that included a 5.2 kilometer trail run in Park City on Thursday, a four-lap speed skating race in Kearns and a bike race Saturday morning from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort.
"I like the non-traditional training," said Cook with a smile. "I've never been the best athlete at anything, but I have worked hard and had a ton of fun along the way. It's real fun for me to come out here and push myself."
The purpose of the camp is that while having a little "friendly" competition, the women will gain a whole lot of cardiovascular stamina, as well as knowledge about what they will need to do for themselves during this fall's ski camp in New Zealand.
"Those camps are where the athletes will experience the most density of skiing," said strength and conditioning coach Ernie Rimer, who is also sporting the "Reno 911" look on Friday. "This is the finish of an endurance block. The athletes have been training so they'll know what their recovery is and how they can survive the volume of skiing they'll be doing in those fall camps."
He called speed skating a great "cross training" activity for the skiers as the body position and ability to ride edges is very similar to ski racing.
"We're making sure they're strong and fit so they can make it to the end of camp," Rimer said. "This week, they're pushing five or six days in a row, and that allows them to calibrate their recovery methods so when they show up in New Zealand, they have high-quality workouts the whole time."
Resi Stiegler said she feels working hard at other sports only makes her more athletic on the ski slope.
"I love to ski a lot, but it's good to get away and it's good for your hand eye coordination to do something else…I think well-rounded athletes are the best," she said.
She points out that Bode Miller "dominates at four sports" which makes him tough to beat on an alpine course.
Trying to compete at something they've never done — like speed skating — is exciting.
"We're used to figuring things out pretty quickly," she said.
Cook added that Olympic Gold medalist Derek Parra, who was their teacher/coach for the training and competition, offered a lot of the same advice her ski coaches offer her on snow.
"There is a huge strength benefit," Cook said of speed skating. "But also just body awareness and being aware of your edge. A lot of what Derek is telling us is the same thing we are learning on the hill. A lot of this is just going for it and kind of pushing yourself physically."
Cook participated in gymnastics, martial arts, baseball and softball, which helped her develop overall athleticism.
"I have never been the phenom of skiing," she said. "I've never been the best one out there. But I work hard at it and it's paid off."
The four teams will race at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and the best-costumed team gets a two minute head start. The prize for the winners is bragging rights, but all of the skiers will be having lunch and signing autographs at Cottonwood Cycling at 11 a.m. until noon on Saturday.
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