2010 Olympic watch: Marco Sullivan visits home before final month of Olympic preparation
OLYMPIC VALLEY and#8212; Marco Sullivan isn’t interested in fourth place at Whistler.
and#8220;Oh, no. The Olympics are all about the podium, for sure,and#8221; the Olympic-bound skier says over a sandwich in the Village at Squaw Valley. and#8220;That’s the cool thing about Olympic races, is that there are no World Cup points at stake. No one cares about anything but winning medals, so it’s just drop the hammer and everyone is full guns from start to finish.
and#8220;It’s pretty exciting from a spectator’s standpoint, and a racer’s. Just one day for glory, basically. Actually, just 2 minutes to glory.and#8221;
At an idle, nothing about Sullivan sets him apart from hordes of skiers shuffling around the village. He’s average height, sporting typical enough ski attire and a disheveled head of helmet hair. In action on the steeps of a Siberia and KT-22, however, the Squaw Valley product stands out like a cheetah speeding through a herd of turtles.
and#8220;I used to get my pass pulled here all the time,and#8221; Sullivan says with a guttural laugh, explaining what happens when one of the world’s fastest downhill skiers practices his and#8220;high-speed turnsand#8221; on the slopes. and#8220;But now most of patrolers know who I am.and#8221;
Sullivan and#8212; a 1998 North Tahoe grad who now owns a home in Truckee and#8212; was in town for a brief visit this past week before returning Friday to compete on the World Cup circuit in Europe. Once there, he has about a month to dial in his racing touch before the Winter Olympics roll around the second week of February. He could use the time to fine-tune, he says.
and#8220;Coming into the year I had pretty high expectations, and I’ve gotten off to a slower start than I had hoped,and#8221; says Sullivan, who specializes in speed events and#8212; downhill and super G. and#8220;So now we have a little Christmas break, and my focus is completely on the next two World Cup races, [Wengen] and Kitzbuhel, and then the Olympics. Those are the three biggest races of the year for me.and#8221;
The Olympic Games will mark the third of Sullivan’s career, although four years ago in Torino, Italy, he lost a ski-off to teammate Scott Macartney and did not compete. In Utah in 2002 the upstart skier raced to a ninth-place finish in the Olympic downhill.
In between those past two Winter Games, Sullivan tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in a 2003 downhill training crash, then re-aggravated the injury in 2004, causing him to miss the entire 2005 season.
He had fallen completely out of racing when, on the same day he took his first unassisted steps after surgery, he caught wind of friend and mentor Daron Rahlves’ win at the famed Kitzbuhel Downhill in Austria. The news provided an extra shot of motivation in his recovery.
Sullivan recovered well, going on to win his first World Cup race in 2008, and notching his third podium finish in 2009 with a third place in the Lauberhorn Downhill in Wengen, Switzerland. So far this season he’s recorded three top-15 finishes.
Now 29 and#8212; no spring chicken in ski racing and#8212; Sullivan concedes Whistler might be his final shot at Olympic glory.
and#8220;In my own mind I kind of doubt I’ll make it to another Olympics,and#8221; he says. and#8220;… It’s kind of a tough lifestyle. It’s a lot of fun, and I hope I can keep doing it for a little while, but I probably won’t be one of those guys who keeps going into his mid 30s.and#8221;
What does he have planned for after that? Nothing just yet. But whatever it is, it will likely involve the sport he loves.
and#8220;I think I’ll still be skiing in some capacity,and#8221; Sullivan says. and#8220;I love skiing. And whether I’m involved in racing or whatever, I’ll always be out there. It’s what I know. I could never see myself getting behind a desk.and#8221;