Inside Olympic Sports

Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002

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Jan. 21, 2002

Catching Up With...

Inside Olympic Sports

Frozen Assets
A new togetherness has the U.S. women's hockey team streaking
toward the Games

This is an article from the Jan. 21, 2002 issue Original Layout

Having bunked with more than a dozen Olympic veterans since the
U.S. women's hockey team started living and training together in
September 2000, rookie forward Andrea Kilbourne, 21, has gotten
daily advice on everything from archrival Canada's hoariest
tricks to what to pack for Salt Lake City. However, on the
subject of Team USA's 27 straight wins over the past five
months, Kilbourne's mentors have offered no comment. "I don't
know if anyone is sure why we are playing so well," says
Kilbourne of the streak, which includes an 8-0-0 record against
Canada. "It's like no one wants to jinx it."

Until last fall it looked as if 2002 might be a transition year
for the Americans, who won the gold medal in 1998. Canada,
smarting from its silver medal showing, has won the three world
championships since then, beating the U.S. in the final each
time. However, the Americans' latest run, which was capped by a
come-from-behind, 3-2 win over Canada on Jan. 8, has left no
question as to who is the favorite heading into Salt Lake City.
Although the U.S. will be wary of win-starved Canada, which was
outscored 31-13 in the two teams' past eight meetings, as well
as improving Russia and pesky Finland, "there's no question
we're playing faster, stronger and better than ever," says
defenseman Karyn Bye, 30 and in her 10th year on Team USA. Says
A.J. Mleczko, 26, a standout defenseman from the '98 squad, "In
the last Olympics, we were pioneers. This team has better
individual talent."

A mix of veterans, including 14 Nagano holdovers, and precocious
talent, including 2000 Park Center (Minn.) High graduate Krissy
Wendell, who led the Americans in points, goals and assists
during the 2000-01 season, the U.S. is dangerously versatile.
"So many of our starters can play forward or defense, and any of
our centers can play at either wing," says coach Ben Smith, who
also guided the team in the 1998 Games. "We can mix things up
quite effectively."

Making all these diverse elements blend is the result of a
six-month chemistry experiment. From the start of the team's
training, Smith has insisted that players reside at the Olympic
facility in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the daily regimen included,
among other things, 20-minute predawn runs and two-hour morning
skates. There were also afternoon weightlifting and cardio
sessions. "It's been an extremely difficult year," says Mleczko,
"but the more time we spend together, the more cohesive a unit
we become."

Smith hopes that the total immersion will foster the sort of
unity that made the 1998 squad better than the sum of its parts.
"We have the skills, but do we have the intangibles?" says Smith
of his biggest concern leading up to the Americans' first game,
against Germany on Feb. 12. Last week, in the U.S.'s final
pre-Olympics matchup against Canada, Bye became convinced that
the Americans are as inspired as they were four years ago.
"After we came back after being down in the third period, I
looked at the faces of teammates I see every day," she says.
"Wow, I thought. This team wants it so badly."

Riding the momentum of successful pre-Olympic play into the
Games is a trick that Canada, which beat the U.S. in seven of 13
games preceding the 1998 Olympics, couldn't pull off. "We've
made extraordinary progress over the past year," says Smith, who
reminded his team, giddy in the locker room after its final
pre-Olympic win over Canada, that the only games that matter had
yet to be played. "It's as if we started a weight-training
program in September. Now we have to find a way to max out."

U.S. Figure Skating Trials
Goebel: Second But Best

Don't be misled by the results of the men's competition at last
week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, which
doubled as the Olympic trials. Todd Eldredge, 30, won his sixth
American title, but 21-year-old Tim Goebel is still the U.S.
skater to watch next month in Salt Lake.

Goebel, the defending champion, may have finished second in the
eyes of the judges, but the so-called King of Quads, who trains
in nearby El Segundo, wasn't fazed. "If the three of us had
skated the same programs before international judges, you would
have seen a different result," Goebel said, referring to himself,
Eldredge and Michael Weiss, 25, who finished third and will join
the other two at the Games. "International judges care more about
technical difficulty, and technically I have a huge edge."

Goebel did himself no favors by falling in both his short and
long programs, the first time while doing routine footwork, the
second while trying a quad. Nor was it wise for him to pare the
number of quads in his free program from three--which is what he
intends to do in the Games--to two. However, Goebel did land two
spectacular quad Salchow-triple toe loop combinations (Eldredge,
as usual, had no quads) while displaying much improved
presentation skills.

"I used to focus only on the jumps," says Goebel, who for two
years has been working with coach Frank Carroll. "Now it's
landing positions, spins, posture, basic skating. Learning how to
relate to a crowd. I'm just developing as a skater."

Goebel may never be a stylistic virtuoso on ice, but at least he
has put an end to the Quasimodo jokes. His trademark will always
be his jumps. He has landed more than 50 quads in competition.
Next year he plans to add a quadruple loop to his arsenal, plus a
quad-triple-triple combination, neither of which has been done in

"People ask how we can compete with the Russians," he says. "It's
very simple. You need to do quadruple jumps." --E.M. Swift

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Forward Shelley Looney has helped the U.S. beat top Olympic rival Canada eight times in a row.