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Nash hopes to improve on ’94 Winter Games results

Jamie Ball

Heading up the most experienced U.S. Cross-Country Olympic Team

ever, Marcus Nash’s time may have come.

Nash, 26, was recently selected for the five-member men’s team

which travels to Nagano this week to compete against the great

dominating teams of Europe.

The list of medal winners since the sport’s 1924 Olympic inception

have read like a who’s-who of European skiing: Norway with five

gold medals in the 50K classic, Sweden with seven golds and Finland

with three.

USA’s cross-country skiers, while good, have been shut out in

each Winter Games.

Enter Nash, originally born in England and raised in Maine, who

recently moved to the growing cross-country mecca of Truckee.

Nash is well aware America has slim chances for collecting gold,

silver or even bronze in Japan, but he is undeterred; he has been

there before.

A 65th place finish in Lillehammer was not the best Nash, then

22, could have done, but he admits he participated for the experience.

“It was a good experience,” said Nash. “The goal for me was to

make the team. I was a college student with no expectations, and

it showed in the way I skied there.”

But there has been nothing immature about Nash’s recent performances

on the World Cup tour.

He says December was a good month, thanks to a trip to Italy.

He posted his best international times with two top-30s (23rd

and 26th) in pursuit races in Val diFiemme, Italy.

“I’m skiing a lot faster now,” Nash said.

Coming off the excellent performances, Nash was confident he would

again make the Olympic team, saying “it was not a concern.”

With the 1998 games comes the chance to rectify a disappointing

1994 finish. Nash said he will not waste this opportunity.

“I’m in a lot better shape now,” Nash said. “I have four years

of World Cup under my belt. At the time (1994), I only had two

years, which is clearly not the way it should be. My goal in Nagano

is to ski my best, which should be top-10.

Nash has never skied in Japan, having given up an opportunity

to ski Sapporo so he could finish school at the University of

Utah.

Training at Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Ski Area twice per day

four up to four hours, Nash said a major misconception about the

sport is that the competitors train mainly in the winter.

“I train mostly in summer. Then, I’m running and rollerskiing,

some weightlifting. A bulk of our training is done in the summer.

In the winter, it’s race season, which is really the easiest time

of the year,” Nash said.

Nerves are a factor for Nash, but he said he blocks out negative

thoughts.

“The best thing for you is to race all the time,” said Nash. “That

way you don’t lose focus. It’s amazing. You go to national championships

and Olympic trials, but they’re nothing compared to World Cup.

When I’m up there, I’m just thinking about going fast. I’m one

of the only guys in the country who can say that.”

Nash’s teammates include John Bauer (1992 Olympic vet), Justin

Wadsworth (1994 Olympian), Marc Gilbertson and Pat Weaver (both

first-time Olympians).

“It’s amazing how much time we’ve spent together,” Nash said of

his teammates. “We’re really supportive of each other. My personal

results come from my teammates pushing me. When one of us succeeds,

we all feel like we’re part of the success of that one person.

You don’t see that in a lot of individual sports.”

While team head coach Gordon Lange called this year’s team “the

most experienced Olympic Team we’ve ever had, Nash knows the Europeans

will bring incredibly fierce competition.

“I think we’ll do good. Realistically, I don’t know that we’re

in medal contention,” Nash said. “We just need a lot of patience

at the Olympics.

“But the competitors will be the same in 2002 (Salt Lake City).

No one will quit skiing between now and then if they don’t medal.

For us, it’s a building Olympics.”

Nash will be in all cross-country skiing events during the Olympics,

practically a race every other idea. He also said he is slated

to be the starting leg of the relay race.

For now, Nash is not much for reading tea-leaves and making predictions.

“I just want to ski my best,” Nash said. “I can be in the top-10.

That’s what I’m focused on.”


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