Will Brandenburg, a 2005 graduate of Mead High School, will join stalwarts Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller on the 22-member U.S. men’s and women’s ski team for the Winter Olympics next month in Vancouver, British Columbia, it was announced Tuesday.
For Brandenburg, it was the realization of a dream.
“I’ve had the number 2010 tacked up on my bedroom wall ever since I heard the Winter Olympics were going to be in Vancouver,” he told The Spokesman-Review in 2007.
Vonn is rolling into Vancouver having won five straight World Cup downhill events this season. She also leads the overall standings.
The way she’s been storming down the mountain, the 25-year-old Vonn could be a five-medal threat in Vancouver.
Miller made his fourth Olympics team. He captured two silver medals at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City but got shut out in Turin.
Reigning Olympic champions Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety also made the team. Mancuso won the giant slalom at the Turin Games in 2006 and Ligety captured gold in the combined.
The squad features nine skiers with Olympic experience and 13 newcomers. The list wasn’t broken down into what events each would ski.
Like Miller, Sarah Schleper will be competing in her fourth Olympics.
For Vonn, Vancouver could be a chance at redemption. She crashed during a training run at the 2006 Games, slamming her right knee, back and head into the snow at nearly 50 mph.
Although she climbed into the starting gate soon after that harrowing fall, she didn’t win any medals.
Since then, Vonn has captured just about everything there is to win, including two overall World Cup titles.
“I would predict she would win a gold medal or two or three or four or five in Vancouver,” said Billy Kidd, who won silver in the slalom at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. “This is not another Olympics. This is her Olympics. This is her chance to show what she could’ve done in Torino.”
Vonn insists she’s not thinking about winning five golds.
“Honestly, the toughest thing about ski racing is all the variables involved in our sport,” she said recently. “I’m skiing really well right now, but anything can happen on race day in Whistler. I can get a gust of wind or the weather could change, so all I’m doing is preparing myself as best I can going forward. I hope all the pieces come together for the race days in Whistler.”
The pieces have been falling into place for Vonn all season. She also leads the points standings in the downhill, super-G and super combined.
“With Lindsey, there’s potential in every event,” U.S. women’s coach Jim Tracy said. “She’s put in the hard work to make it happen and has proven she can, but the cream of the crop will be there and they all have the same goal. She’s said it better than anyone: If she wins one medal of any color, she’ll be happy. Everything else will be a bonus.”
Miller had a rather forgetful performance four years ago, his socializing pretty much overshadowing his skiing. He came into Turin about the same way Vonn is entering Vancouver – as the cover story – but failed to land on the podium.
Now the father of a little girl and back with the U.S. Ski Team after two years of training and racing on his own, the 32-year-old Miller may be showing signs of mellowing. But he sprained his right ankle playing volleyball in December, forcing him to miss some competitions.
With his aggressive, hold nothing-back style, Miller is a factor in any race he enters.
He recently captured a World Cup super combined event in Wengen, Switzerland, for his first victory in nearly two years.
Ligety and Mancuso carry the weight of being reigning Olympic champions. This time, the two Americans won’t enter as unknowns.
“I’m in a really good place with my skiing,” Ligety said in a recent telephone call from Kitzbuehel, Austria.
One of the names not on the list is two-time Olympian Scott Macartney, who finished 15th in Turin in the downhill. But that’s just how deep the men’s downhill is these days.
The glare of the Olympic spotlight will shine brightly on Vonn, overshadowing Mancuso and Co.
That’s just fine with Mancuso.
These two teammates have a healthy rivalry, pushing each other in training and hoping it spills into competitions.
While Vonn has been a podium fixture this season, Mancuso has yet to land in the top three.
“I’ve had good training runs,” Mancuso said. “I just have to have everything come together for the race.”
Deneen named to U.S. freestyle ski team
Patrick Deneen, a native of Cle Elum, Wash., was named to the 18-member U.S. Olympic Freestyle Ski Team on Tuesday.
Deneen, the defending 2009 world champion, is a former member of the Silver Mountain Freestyle team in Kellogg.