Friday, April 17, 2015
At the Olympic Games, USA Swimming has won 520 medals -- 220 of them gold. Second place country Australia has 171, total.
Outside of a 17 day cycle once every four years we will only hear the names of swimmers like Lochte and Phelps for their more dubious distinctions. How is it that America can so thoroughly dominate a sport you won't find on Sportscenter or in your daily newspaper?
"Olympic champions don't just do much more of the same things that summer-league country-club swimmers do. They don't just swim more hours, or move their arms faster or attend more workouts. What makes them faster cannot be quantitatively compare with lower level swimmers... Instead they do things differently. Their strokes are different, their attitudes are different, their group of friends are different, their parents treat the sport differently." Via The Mundanity of Excellence report
Today, Fortune magazine weighed in on with the article Why U.S. swimming is so dominant. Perhaps the biggest key: A rigid management roadmap for their Olympic team.
One takeaway from Chuck Wielgus, director USA Swimming:
“We’re a not-for-profit with a bottom-line orientation. Performance by committee is a major mistake. So coaches run their show, directors do their part, and it’s a separation of state.”
Is there something in there for other sports to learn?
Saturday, March 14, 2015
|Utah's lone All-America on Saturday, Andy Trow in action|
Utah slips to third by end of NCAA Ski Championships
On a cloudy, windy morning on the slalom ski slopes of Whiteface Mountain, the Skiing Utes tumbled to third for the NCAA team title.
The Utes headed into the final day in Lake Placid, NY behind the eventual champion Colorado Buffalos. Denver University put up the day’s dominate performance in the men’s slalom by going two-three-four.
“I have to hand it to Denver today,” Utah’s ski director Kevin Sweeney said. “They skied solid. No, it was more than solid. They put down some results today where I had to go, ‘Wow, that’s impressive. To do that they did I was actually in awe of that.’”
The NCAAs were the first time all season the defending national champion Pioneers defeated the Utes in a team title competition.
“I think that’s where we got into a little bit of trouble — we were skiing solid but conservative to defend our position,” Sweeney said. “We took more rounded lines and skied a bit cautious as opposed to taking tighter lines and letting the skis really run.”
At these championships Utah tallied 13 All-America performances during the four days of races though only junior Andy Trow’s seventh earned the honors Saturday.
In addition to Trow’s run, Joergen Brath finished 15th while Endre Bjertness was 26th. Ana Kobal led the Utah women in 12th while Kristiina Rove finished 17th and Chloe Fausa was 20th.
“I’m sitting here trying to digest it,” Sweeney said. “This group is of championship quality. I need to remind myself we were on the podium as a team and that’s certainly an accomplishment. Yet at the same time, we had the opportunity to take gold and we didn’t capitalize.”
Colorado won by scoring 505 points during the five days of competition, followed by Denver (478) and Utah (471). Vermont (443) and New Mexico (402) rounded out the top five teams.
In the last five years, Utah has three second-place finishes and one third-place. Utah hasn’t won the team title since 2003. This twelve-year title drought is the longest in school history.
“He was really in the zone,” Sweeney said about Trow’s two All-America performances at the championships. “He was really focused and came in here with a lot of confidence. I give him a lot of credit for being able to dial it in while under such pressure.”
Trow started his first run with a mid-pack starting position, yet skied into ninth. On his second run, Trow was able to move up two positions. The Canmore, Alberta native said blocking out the team title standings was key for his consistent performances.
“I can’t start counting the points to see where we are at,” Trow said. “I just try to ignore all that. I know how to ski race. Team standings are important but I can’t let that change my game plan. I just have to go out there and race like I do every day. I just try and block all the rest of that out and perform. When I do that, that’s what’s best for the team.”
Utah’s individual national champion undecided
While Utah might have left upstate New York without the crown jewel of NCAA skiing, the Utes return to Salt Lake City with some hardware. Veronikia Mayerhofer won the individual title in the women’s 5-km freestyle. The freshman from Bad Gastein, Austria nearly added another in Friday’s 15-km classic but lost out in a photo finish.
The 22-year old says she will soon decide whether she’ll return of Utah next year. Mayerhofer was an up-and-coming talent with the Austrian national team. Despite making last year’s Sochi Olympics, she said she was burnt out and looking for a new challenge. Psychology studies and competing with the more team-oriented focus of NCAA skiing for Utah provided the new environment. It’s her teammates that might keep Mayerhofer wearing Ute Red (Pantone 187) for years to come.
“We spend so much time together, not just training,” Mayerhofer said. “I don’t know how to live without them. Yeah, I’ll come back… but the final decision will be made in the next week.”
Utah hopes Mayerhofer returns, not just for her performance but what she brings to the team’s dynamic. “It’s been a tremendous experience having Veronika on the team,” Sweeney said. “She’s found a team, she’s found friends and she’s found success in all that. I’m just hoping she wants more.”
The Utes are also already aiming for more than just a place on the podium at next year’s NCAA championship. “We’re happy with what we did but we wanted more,” Trow said. “We definitely wanted more. We’re just going to train harder, train faster and beat them all next year.”
Friday, March 13, 2015
|Utah's All-Americans from Friday's classic races|
Article Link: Utah skiing locked in final-day battle for NCAA team title
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Friday, February 13, 2015
Last night I talked to my dad as he was on his way to pay his last respects to Jack Owen. Jack was one of the greatest generation. He was instrumental to putting U.S. skiing on the map. Here is the letter I received from my dad today, the day Jack passed away. You will be missed -- and missed dearly.
February 13, 2015
Jack Owen, one of the Pacific Northwest’s preeminent and pioneering ski coaches passed peacefully last night at the age of 95. A lifelong and accomplished outdoorsman, Jack discovered Nordic skiing in the mid-1960’s when his five children joined Herb Thomas’ fledgling Wenatchee Ski Club.
Prior to that discovery, Jack had been a standout high school basketball player. His father’s Granite Falls, Washington sawmill provided cedar stock to George Pocock’s, and Jack struck up a friendship with Pocock in the course of making deliveries to Pocock’s Boatworks. Some Owen lumber may have accompanied the Boys in the Boat to Berlin. If so, it would not be Jack’s sole brush with the Olympic Games.
Following high school, Jack and his family homesteaded on Kodiak Island, and Jack’s first career was as a tug boat captain working in the Gulf of Alaska. Jack enlisted during the second World War, was trained as a weatherman, and scrambled up a Normandy Beach on D-day. Following the war he used the GI bill to attend Montana State University where he earned a degree in electrical engineering.
Following graduation, Jack began working as a engineer for Alcoa. He was eventually transferred to the Alcoa plant in Wenatchee, Washington; a community that meshed perfectly with Jack’s interests in family, the outdoors, and career.
Jack took over head coaching for the Wenatchee ski team in 1967. Both he and Herb Thomas had been years ahead of Title 9; and believed that females could equally train, compete, and enjoy endurance sports. This was a time when the US did not have a women’s ski team; when women were barred from the Boston Marathon, and when the longest track event for women at the 1968 Mexico Games was the 800 meters.
Jack was all in as a coach, and like Arthur Lydiard, made sure to trial his training ideas and concepts on himself first. He possessed an analytic, engineering orientation; and became a student of great classic ski technique. It was ultimately evidenced in his skiers. There is a ski technique bible in Norway that devotes a chapter to the classic technique of Jack’s daughter Alison.
Jack was the sort of coach who reached out to other disciplines. He developed a friendship with legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman. The two shared a passion for fly fishing, and shared coaching ideas and perspectives while bringing trout to fly on the McKenzie River below Bowerman’s home.
Female Swedish and West German ski champions made a point of stopping in East Wenatchee while touring North America. Those were wonderful opportunities for stars and up-and-comers alike. The porch light was always on for nordic skiers at Jack and his wife Bess’ home.
In 1966, Jack’s 13 year old daughter Alison broke the gender barrier at the Junior Nationals in Winter Park, Colorado. She had qualified for the PNSA boy’s team, and raced in the boy’s class. The organizers made precautionary provisions, with an ambulance standing by. Alison showed them something, and the next year females were welcomed and had their own races.
There was a time in the mid-1970’s when half the U.S. women’s team came from a one block radius in East Wenatchee. The five neighborhood girls were Alison and Sally Owen, Tammy and Tracy Valentine, and Joanne Musolf. The latter four finished 2 – 5 at the 1974 Junior Nationals in Steamboat Springs. Not surprisingly, they also won the relay by a wide margin.
A number of Jack’s skiers went on to NCAA and international success. Alison was the most notable, winning World Cups and finishing second at Holmenkollen. Perhaps more telling is the profound respect and connection they have maintained with their old coach, and with one another.
Jack retired from ski coaching in 1982. A number of his former charges followed him into coaching, and remain active role models today. Having caught the endurance bug as a coach, Jack indulged it after his retirement from Alcoa, also in 1982.
He became an accomplished road cyclist. Coming down a generation in age group, he and Muffy Ritz were a formidable tandem team at the Master’s nationals. Devoted to his custom made Davidson road bike, Jack would allow himself a replacement every 70,000 miles.
Jack lived independently into his 95th year. He followed his beloved Seahawks from his apartment to SuperBowl 49. He had the good sense to fall asleep for their 4th quarter demise.
Jack is survived by his five children, and host of admirers.