Q&A with Marco Sullivan
The Sierra Sun caught up with U.S. Ski Team downhill racer Marco Sullivan via e-mail during his travels on the World Cup circuit in Europe.Born and raised in Tahoe City, Sullivan, 26, has been on skis as far back as he can remember, mastering the art of speeding down mountains on some of the steepest steeps at Squaw Valley. He soon became a promising four-event racer, winning bronze in slalom at Junior Worlds in 2000 before switching his focus to downhill events.Sullivan won the 2001 NorAm overall, super G and downhill championships and in 2002 posted the top U.S. result in the Olympics with a ninth-place finish in downhill. That same season Sullivan returned home to Squaw Valley and won the U.S. super G title.After sitting out nearly two full seasons with injuries, Sullivan made a comeback in 2005-06 to earn a spot on his second Olympic Team though he lost a ski-off with teammates Steve Nyman and Scott Macartney and did not compete in the Games.Now fully recovered from his injuries, Sullivan said he is feeling as strong as ever in his eighth year with the U.S. Ski Team.Check out what he had to say about ski racing, North Tahoe High football, the lack of snow in Europe and more.SS: I read that you were the captain of the North Tahoe football team. What position did you play? Were you good?Marco: I was a co-captain. There was four of us, all childhood friends, so it was cool. I played linebacker, tight end and all the special teams. Our team was small so pretty much everybody had more than one assignment. I was OK, but I really loved it. I miss that team camaraderie.SS: Whats your next best sport besides skiing? Marco: I can toss a pretty mean horseshoe! I built a pit at my house.SS: Was there any certain point that you decided you wanted to ski for a living?Marco: It was kind of a natural progression, ever since I was little, like kindergarten little, I wanted to do nothing but ski. Racing just came naturally. It has provided me with an income and Olympic experience, but I still see myself expanding into many other areas of the sport.SS: What single person has taught you the most about skiing?Marco: KT-22, not really a person, but still my main mentor.SS: Any mentors or people who have inspired you to do what it is you do? Marco: Recently I really started to respect guys who win a lot of World Cup Downhill races. Every race is a like a complicated game of chicken with the mountain and the course, and to come out on top of that battle week after week is quite impressive to me.SS: Of your three major injuries that I know of left ACL on the last day of 2000 Junior Worlds, right knee at Birds of Prey in December of 2003 and right ACL early 2004 which was most serious? How did you do the one in 04? Marco: The injury at Birds of Prey in 03 was by far the worst because I felt my knee explode and instantly knew that I was missing the season and I had been skiing really well. 04 was just a continuation of that first one cause it never really healed. Looking back, none of them were that serious in the scheme of my life. Just altered my timeline a bit.SS: After your most recent injury you worked grooming slopes at Homewood and as a ski technician at the Starthaus in Truckee. Did you plan on returning to the U.S. Ski Team at that point, or were you ready to call it a career?Marco: I always knew that I would be back racing. There were times when it seemed really far away but never out of reach. Just look at my choice of jobs! I can never get too far from the hill!SS: If you were planning on getting away from racing, what motivated you to return?Marco: After my surgery I was non weight bearing for 10 weeks. The day that I took my first unassisted steps I heard that Daron (Rahlves of Truckee) had won Kitzbuhel. It was a day of high emotion and from then on I attacked my comeback with new zest. It seems like a long time ago now!SS: What has been the low point in your ski racing career? Marco: When I was 12 I used to get beat all the time by Jonna Mendes. She used to beat all the guys and there was nothing we could do about it! Ever since I started beating all the girls it has been pretty good.SS: What has been the high point in your ski racing career?Marco: 2002 Olympics I finished 9th starting from way in the back and a ton of my friends and family had driven out from Tahoe. To see how proud they were and how hard we partied afterwards I realized how the Olympic spirit really transcends any personal achievement and that was cool.SS: What are your goals from here? How many more Olympics are you shooting for? Marco: I will probably stick around till Vancouver (2010), but I am not going to measure my career timeline to coincide with the Olympics. I am looking forward to skiing in some form for many more years. Right now I am obsessed with racing World Cup Downhill. It is gnarly and very addicting.SS: Were you a crazy kid as far as being a daredevil? Marco: I was never really a daredevil. I took a lot of risks, but most were calculated. I have learned the same lesson racing DH. My first year on the World Cup I ended up in the fences five times. I was really fast but rarely pulled it off. Now I treat Downhills more like a puzzle. I can study the course and see the places where you have to go balls to the wall and the places where it does not pay off to risk everything. When I link all the different sections together correctly, that is when I am fastest.SS: This past Olympics you, Steve Nyman and Scott Macartney had a ski-off to determine who got the last spot on the U.S. Olympic Alpine ski team, and you barely were edged out, first by Nyman and then by Macartney. How disappointed were you? Did you stick around for the Olympics or just return home?Marco: I truly was not that bummed. I was coming off of injuries and had only a couple of results in the weeks prior to the Olympics to even be considered in that duel for a spot. It stung a little to get beat of course, but I was not in a mindset to be a contender to win the Olympic DH anyway so I figured it was probably best that those other two had their shot at it. It was dumping in Austria at the time, so I drove up and skied pow for a few days before flying home. It was actually pretty epic skiing so it turned out good for everybody.SS: So how are you feeling, both mentally and physically, this season on the World Cup tour?Marco: I am feeling strong mentally, and physically I have no real ailments! Every week I feel like a contender to win so it is as good as it has ever been for me.SS: Whats the snow situation like over there (in Europe)? Marco: It is pretty bleak. I know we are hurting for snow in Tahoe but there is even less over here in Europe. Our races have not been effected too bad because of strong snow making systems, but not being able to free ski is a bummer. It is snowing a little right now outside my window in Val Disere so maybe things are looking up.SS: Do you have any breaks in the schedule when you plan to visit home? Marco: I am going to come home after the World Championships on Feb. 12. I only get a week before returning to the tour, but any time at home is always nice, especially if the skiing is good!SS: Anything else youd like to say to the hometown folks wholl be reading this?Marco: If you could tell them that I write a blog weekly on WCSN.com. I would love to hear feedback from the folks at home and I am always looking for ideas on stuff to write about. Cant wait to be back skiing Squaw this spring.
Hometown: TruckeeBirthplace: Tahoe CityBirth date: 04/27/80U.S. Ski Team: 8 yearsHeight: 6-0Weight: 210Club: Squaw Valley Ski TeamCollege: University of Utah
Olympics: 2002, 06; Worlds: 03 6th in 03 Beaver Creek DH 9th in 02 Olympic DH 17th in 03 Worlds super G 2002 U.S. super G champion 2001 Nor Am overall/DH/SG king Two-time Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year. Info from U.S. Ski Team
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