It makes sense: Utah, the land of snow and skiing, should have some skiers on snow in Lillehammer, Norway, for the coming Olympics.
How strong those ties are ranges from completely binding to Utahn-in-name-only. How well they'll do remains to be seen. With the exception of Hilary Lindh and Trace Worthington, all are long shots at a medal. Given a good day, however, and a little adrenaline, and it's not impossible.Over the years Utah's ties with the Olympics have steadily grown. Good skiing is one reason, and the fact the U.S. Ski Team is headquartered in Park City is another. Look for the new Winter Sports Park, considered the best ski jumping/freestyle facility in the country, to build the "locals" pool.
While most of Utah's ties are transplants, there are four Olympians who are home-grown and Utah trained. Jeremy and Shannon Nobis are products of the Park City junior race program. Freestyle mogul skiers Sean Smith and Craig Rodman also learned to ski on Utah snow.
Those with Utah ties to watch in Lillehammer:
- Jeremy Nobis, 23, is the only U.S. skier with World Cup giant slalom points, albeit but three. He'll need to ski the best two runs of his life. And if he medals in the GS, it would be a first for the U.S.
As a member of the Park City Ski Team, young Nobis was a dominant figure on the junior race scene. He joined the ski team in 1987 and was expected to do well in the 1992 Games. A knee injury kept him from competing. A second knee injury in 1993 limited his skiing. This year he was certified healthy and was expected to do well in the opening World Cup on his home snow in Park City. He didn't. In fact, he scored his first WC points on Jan. 18 with a 28th-place finish in Switzerland.
- Shannon Nobis, 21, was also a dominant figure on the Intermountain race scene as a junior. As a teen, however, she left Park City and enrolled in a ski racing academy/school back East. She joined the U.S. team two years ago. Lately, Nobis has been skiing well. In December, she won a Nor-Am and last month she won a FIS super G in Italy. She is currently third among U.S. women in super G points.
- Erik Schlopy, 21, grew up in Vermont, but moved to Park City last year. A promising ski racing career was interrupted in 1993 when he suffered a fractured sternum and two compressed vertebrae in a training accident. A top-15 finish in the World Cup slalom at Park City in November started him on his way to the Olympics.
- Heidi Voelker, 24, is another move-in Utahn. She, too, grew up on eastern ski slopes, but now lives in Park City. To this point she has been one of the better U.S. skiers. She's been a consistent top-10 World Cup finisher in giant slalom this year. This will be her second Olympic showing. She was 20th in the slalom in 1992.
- Hilary Lindh, 24, grew up in Alaska, but came to Salt Lake to train for a few years at the Rowmark Ski Academy. On Feb. 2, Lindh posted her first WC downhill win of the season. She said then she "knew she was ready" to win. Hopefully, this will carry over to Lillehammer. She is one of two returning medalist on the alpine team from the 1992 Games where she won a silver in the downhill.
- John Aalberg, 33, is a former member of the U. of U. cross country program and one of its most successful skiers. Aalberg stayed in Salt Lake City and continued to train and compete in nordic events. Just weeks before the '92 Games, he was made a U.S. citizen, competed for America and was its most successful nordic racer. He had the highest U.S. finishes in the three races he competed in. His best was an 18th in the 10K classical. He is a native Norwegian.
- Luke Bodensteiner, 23, is another product of the U. of U. program, where he won two NCAA titles. He earned his second trip to the Olympics with two impressive wins at the trials last month. His best finish in '92 was a 27th in the 30K classical. He lists West Bend, Wis., as his home, but does live part of the year in Kamas.
- Marcus Nash, 23, is another product of the Ute program. He is a senior this year. He is a surprise member of the team and was selected after a strong performance in the trials. He was hit with bronchitis and missed the last race in the trials.
- Justin Wadsworth, 25, is a name not many may remember. He skied for one year for the U. of U. He posted a 4th, 5th and 6th in the trials to earn a trip to the Olympics.
- Laura McCabe, 27, moved to Logan as a teen, but didn't start cross country skiing until after graduation from the U. of U., where she was a cross country runner. She qualified for her first Olympics with a gold and bronze in the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Anchorage.
- Ingrid Butts, 30, will be making her third trip to the Olympics. Two years ago she finished with a 47th and 48th in the two races she competed in. She did not make the nordic team last year, but worked her way back this year.
- Sean Smith, 22, is the top mogul skier in the U.S. and is currently ranked 6th in the world. His best result was a third back on Jan. 15 in Canada this year. For the past two years he's been ranked 21st and 23rd, respectively, in mogul skiing.
- Craig Rodman, 21, will be making his second trip to compete in Olympic mogul skiing. Like the Nobises, Rodman learned to ski at Park City. He finished 13th in the '92 Games.
- Trace Worthington, 24, returned to the aerial scene a few weeks back after recovering from ligament damage to his right knee. He immediately set himself up as a medal contender by posting a third and fifth in the Freestyle Internationals. He moved from Minnesota to Park City this past summer to be closer to the Winter Sports Park.
Utah's Olympic ties
Olympic athletes and coaches with ties to Utah.
Alpine (downhill) skiing
Jeremy Nobis, Park City
Erik Schlopy, Park City
Hilary Lindh, a former high school student at Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake
Shannon Nobis, Park City
Heidi Voelker, Park City
Alan Ashley, Park City, team leader
Paul Major, Park City, head coach
Thor Kallerud, Park City, assistant coach
Ueli Luthi, Park City, assistant coach
Craig Rodman, Park City, Utah native - born in Salt Lake
Sean Smith, Park City
Trace Worthington, Park City, considered by many to be best "local" shot at a medal
Jeff Churnas, Salt Lake, team leader (men and women)
Wayne Hilterbrand, Park City, assistant coach
Margaret Ann Wier, Park City, U.S. judge who will score the women's competition
Zigmund Palffy, Salt Lake Golden Eagles, will play for Slovakia
Alan Johnson, Park City, team leader
Nordic (cross country) skiing
John Aalberg, Salt Lake City
Luke Bodensteiner, former University of Utah All-American skier
Marcus Nash, senior on University of Utah team
Justin Wadsworth, skied for University of Utah in 1988
Ingrid Butts, Park City
Laura McCabe, Park City
Jack Benedick, Park City, team leader
Gordon Lange, Kamas, head coach
Alan Johnson, Park City, team leader