2002: Advantage USA

Utah Olympic ParkThe following in an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated article published on Feb. 4, 2002:

To prepare for these Games, U.S. athletes have flocked to the Salt Lake City area over the last few years. Of some 200 members of the U.S. team, only three are Utah-born, but 38 of them have moved to the state to train, including defending aerial skiing gold medalist Eric Bergoust, who arrived in 1997 and resides three miles from the Olympic site at Deer Valley. In addition to building camaraderie with one another, the relocated athletes have been able to practice at and learn the quirks of the facilities at which they’ll compete during the Games. “It’s a leg up for us to get used to the Olympic ice day in and day out,” says speed skater Derek Parra, who moved from Wisconsin to Utah in December 2000, leaving behind his wife, Tiffany, who was carrying their first child. “This oval is unique, and when we walk in during the Games, it won’t shock us if we’ve been training there six days a week.”

American athletes in several outdoor sports also feel they have gained an edge by training at Games sites. “Soldier Hollow has its secrets,” U.S. biathlete Jay Hakkinen says of his venue, which has cross-country trails and a shooting range. “I try to walk the course every day. There are no killer hills like a lot of courses. It’s a fast course, so you really have to carry your speed and know which hills to go hard on.” Adds Jeremy Teela, one of Hakkinen’s teammates, “Different parts of the shooting range have different wind patterns. You need experience on a particular range to figure them out.”

The home edge may be less significant elsewhere. The skeleton, bobsled and luge runs at Utah Olympic Park are easier to navigate than most tracks. “No matter how much you train on it, the advantage is small,” grumbles Jim Shea, the 1999 world skeleton champion, who’s better suited to more technically demanding layouts.

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