2002: Americans make great Nordic strides in Utah

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ESPN.com on February 24, 2002:

For the U.S. Nordic skiing teams, close counts, fourth-place finishes are fantastic and best showings ever are cause for celebration. These Americans aren’t quite ready to measure success with medals.

“That day will come,” cross-country skier Justin Wadsworth said.

Maybe soon.

The U.S. Nordic skiing program, which includes biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined, enjoyed its top Olympic performance in 26 years at the Salt Lake City Games. And it didn’t even medal.

“I don’t think any of us would tell you that we came here just to race and to compete in the Olympics,” biathlete Rachel Steer said. “We really needed to raise the bar, and I think we did. But we’re not satisfied. Hopefully that will drive us through the next four years of training.”

And possibly put them on the podium in 2006.

The United States failed to medal in five Olympic sports at these games: curling, ski jumping and the three Nordic skiing disciplines. The Americans were shut out at Soldier Hollow.

But the Nordic skiing teams had several breakthrough performances on the men’s side, and the athletes hope those results will help propel the programs into the world’s elite group — and into medal contention.

“The men’s teams had huge, huge results,” Steer said. “That’s what we need (kids) to see. If they see it, then we can raise interest and that will give us promise for the future.”

The women fared much worse. Steer had the highest biathlon finish, 31st, and Nina Kemppel had the best cross country finish, 17th.

“(The men) definitely have a head start on us as far as development, but we’re looking really strong for four years from now,” cross-country skier Barbara Jones said. “Eight years from now, I think we can be in the medals. I really believe that.”

Click here to read the entire article.


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