With the Sochi Olympics in the rear view mirror, the song that keeps playing in my head over and over is Imagine.
Imagine by John Lennon: …. Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace, You may say I’m a dreamer….. This biannual event winter and summer is the Olympics. Athletes performing at the highest level of their disciplines get together under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and compete. Tons of money change hands, the corporate interests tempt the athletes and reward them based on their performance. Other shady activities have been known to occur behind the scene, particularly in the subjective events that the judges have significant power to determine who gets on the podium. To those opposed to our imagination, state the fear of a one world government, the elimination of religion to mention a few as usual response. These same folks have no qualms performing drone strikes on the innocents, contaminating our environment with depleted Uranium shells in foreign lands causing untold diseases and loading up our environment with green house gases that could significantly affect snow sports as we know it.
There are many stories of this Sochi Olympics: which country hauled in the most medals, Skier injured during training on the ski cross terrain, US athletes got no medal in the Men’s half pipe event, White pulls out of the Snowboard slopestyle event, etc. The biggest story of this Sochi Olympics is the Russians going WILD. In case you have missed this because of some kind of media shenanigan the Russians were wild about Victor Wild. Victor Wild, an American athlete, who has been competing in snowboarding since elementary school and started snowboard racing soon after and tipped back then as an Olympian (see Monique Anderson’s video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWey3ibjRcI) won two gold medals for the Russian Federation.
What? An American winning two gold medal for Russia? Yup! it is true, thanks to an American organization called USSA. USSA stands for United States Ski Association but they will make you believe that it stands for Unites States Ski and Snowboarding Association. USSSA does not exist. A closer look at the USSA management team is quite revealing. The retiring President and CEO, Bill Marolt is an Olympian with ski racing background, His successor, Tiger Shaw who is currently the COO also is an Olympian with ski racing background. The Executive VP of Athletics, Luke Bordensteiner, is also a cross country skiing Olympian. Luke was quoted in the Denver Post “Our strategic focus on new events like halfpipe and slopestyle had clear athletic success for us in Sochi and are very relevant to what kids are doing at resorts around the world today,” We shall return to this quote later. Mark Lampe, the CFO is a former freestyle skier. Michael Jaquet, the Chief Marketing Officer is identified as a lifelong ski industry marketing visionary and a cross country skier. Calum Clark, VP Events is an alpine athlete. Tom Kelly is VP Communications, and well respected for developing ski racing series. Ruth Flanagan is VP Foundation, the fund raising arm of USSA. The Foundation raises millions each year in an annual fund and endowments to directly support the most expansive and diverse programs of any Olympic sport from youth development to World and Olympic Champions.
Looking at the management team, it is obvious it lacks any form of representation from snowboarding. There is no snowboarding interest present in the day to day operation of this organization at the highest level, this is purely a skiing organization. This observation is similar in some ways to Terje Haakonsen’s view of FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) in controlling snowboarding. It is clear that skiing is very discriminatory in its day to day operation in terms of other snow sports. There are still a few hold out ski resorts that still would not permit snowboarding. Aspen (Ajax) resisted snowboarding despite the cost until it got a snowboarding CEO. So, we know that there are snowboarding executives out there and USSA just refused to find and hire these individuals. Until recently, most resorts tolerated snowboarding and you can only get snowboard lessons at ski schools. Now in some resorts Ski School is changing to Snow Sports School. It is almost like going below the Mason-Dixon line and still finding signs that reads “Whites Only” and “Coloured People at the back of the bus”. Only this time
it is skiers and snowboarders. Good luck trying to find an instructional snowboard lesson for your three year old. The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and its left appendage the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) will tell you no just make her ski, as they have found some formula that indicates that kids can only ski and not snowboard. It is amazing that the folks at AASI are lackeys to the PSIA folks. Another indication that snowboarders are incapable of management even though they have developed the curriculum and the progression lesson. The subject of AASI will be addressed separately elsewhere.
The only American that raced alpine snowboarding in Sochi under the US flag is Justin Reiter. He got marginal support from USSnowboarding actually USSA. He could not be rejected from participation because of his success at the world cup level. A vice world champion, despite the limited amount of funding and support from USSA, his achievement is testament to the makeup of the alpine snowboarder. Their soft boot racing counterpart enjoy all the support and funding from USSnowboarding USSA. The reason for the inequity in funding of the disciplines of snowboarding is intriguing to say the least. One will find it very hard to find such inequity in skiing and even it it exists you can bet alpine skiing will get the major slice of the pie. So, why is alpine snowboarding not not getting anything at all? Racing, the fundamental backboneof snow sports is well revered in skiing but the same skiing establishment do not see it for snowboarding, why? The skiing establishment is traditional and resists change. The admission of women into ski jumping has to be fought for by women and a campaign has to be waged to get it recognized as an Olympic discipline. This shows that the male dominated USSA needs to change and change should be demanded by every snow sport enthusiast. Equitable funding of all snow sport disciplines must be demanded.
For snowboarding, this has to be our “Arab Spring”. We must demand a change to the good old boy ski network. They must open up or go by the way side. A series of campaign must be initiated and we should explore legal means to drive this change. The role of the USOC, The United States Olympic Committee in this discriminatory practice needs to be explored. If the USOC is not aware of this inequity, we must demand why such an oversight? In any case, any snowboarder or citizen that believe in equal opportunity and abhors discrimination should stop contributing to the USOC. This form of funding campaign should get zero dollars.
The USOC should be pressured in determining how the USSA measures up to its goals and whatever funding it receives. As USSA does not have any significant development program for snowboarding when compared to skiing, it proves that it cannot be a responsible steward of this sport. The foundation under the guidance of Ms. Flanagan is to fund youth development to World and Olympic champions. This clearly is the case for skiing but not for snowboarding. Why the double standard? How can it justify little or no funding for our Vice World Champion Justin Reiter? How does the support and funding for skiers at Justin’s level compare is a question that the USSA management must answer?
On the subject of youth development, as far as snowboarding is concerned USSA has an abysmal failing grade, clearly F. On skiing, USSA is an A, go figure.
Who has done the most youth development for snowboarding? Where do all the snowboarders that compete at FIS sanctioned events gain experience? Clearly,
it is not USSA, most snowboarder start competing at (USASA) United States of America Snowboard Association events and as such USASA needs to join this campaign in a big way, if it will continue to develop snowboarders, send them to world cup events with adequate support and funding. USSA has failed to support our up and coming athletes to Junior World competition. Most athletes that excels at the World Championships start at Junior World Championships. To put the burden of sending under 18 alpine snowboarders to Junior World to represent the United States of America on their parents is unfair, especially when that is not the case for skiers. It is a clear indication of a systemic problem of discrimination. The last time I checked discrimination is unlawful in USA and USSA is breaking
the law. The civil rights of alpine snowboarders in particular and snowboarders in general is being violated by the USSA as a result of unequal treatment.
The USSA management team will attempt to put forth some bogus data justifying their discriminatory practice. However, we should keep in mind that purest form
of snowboarding is being assaulted. Try and fake an alpine turn and get downhill at the shortest possible time, impossible! Here, time doesn’t lie. You may not like this article and boycott this site, but you cannot argue with time. That was what Victor Wild showed everyone. Since winning double gold, there have been some threatening mails from the uninformed members of our community, from the uninformed jingoistic Americans but those should have been directed at USSA.
Vic Wild showed everyone what a determined rider can do even when down by the maximum time possible against a world champion Benjamin Karl. He came back and beat Karl to go into the finals. The drive to become the first snowboarder to win both gold metals in GS and SL in the same Olympic, the financial reward for winning and the fact that USSA will have to answer to his victory under the Russian Federation flag produced the invincible American-born Victor Wild. His final victory carve celebrating his SL gold was a double one-finger salute on each hand to USSA.
Our purest form of snowboarding must be preserved at all cost. We cannot give it up to the judges who count how many spins and how many summersaults one can perform off a jump. Snowboarding has taken a weird direction aided by media portrayal and corporate profit. If one were to look at a typical snowboard publication one would have a hard time seeing the connection between the snowboard and the snow, as most photos are of air-borne athletes, as if the snowboard is a flying machine. The media portrayal is complicit with maximizing profit for the big snowboard manufacturing companies. These corporations have followed in the footsteps of others by closing manufacturing plants and shipping snowboard manufacturing overseas where they produce low quality low performance boards that are unstable at speed and cannot hold a carve to save ones life. The USSA management have absolutely no idea of the contribution of snowboarding to snow sports as we know it today. Skiing has continue to fall behind in product development and just copying snowboarding; whether it is in fashion (loose-fitting) dressing styles and the blind application of nonperforming shapes like rocker. You name it snowboarding is the trend setter.
At a time that snowboarding is being taken over by acrobats and gymnasts, there should be a redoubling of efforts to preserve the purest snowboarding discipline.
The number of twists and turn you can perform in the air is not snowboarding just because you have a snowboard strapped to your feet does not make it snowboarding. Skiing understands this and their opposition to freestyle skiing is quite demonstrative. There is some thing to be said for non subjectivity. There is
no doubt about who cross the finish line first and no you don’t have to like that person. That person doesn’t have to be photogenic, that person can look at the
judges cross eyed and cannot be denied her victory. You cannot rob that individual of victory, time does not lie. Jimi Scott, a former world champion half pipe
tried to bring some objectivity into half pipe scoring. We both worked on it and the powers that be rejected it. More recently, the freestyle-rider dominated boarder cross athletes rejected the use of active suspension plates on boardercross boards. The boardercross course has undergone so many modifications over the
years; initially, it was designed to maximize carnage, then most riders refuse to participate, then the fastest machines were banned under the pretense that
square tails were the culprit. When the square tails (alpine race boards) were produced with rounded edges as most boards were today, the dominant edge goes to
those riders in hard boots that can more effectively transfer power; it then got another revisions, jumps and more jumps were added like flying is the art of
snowboarding. No one can pass in the air, just ask Alex Diebolt on his bronze medal winning run. The ability to pick a good line, set the edge and drive the
race machine was the winning edge, not how far or long you can jump. Also, let me remind you all that jump styling attempt cost the USA a gold medal in boarder
cross in Torino.
The purity of snowboarding has a style element but it is not to turn snowboarders into robots performing the same tricks over and over. The distinct styles of
Peter Bauer, Jean Nirva or that of Serge Vitelli who has been identified with the V-turn the purest form and probably the most stylish laid out carve turn speak
for themselves. Alpine snowboarding refuse to judge these styles. Vitelli honed his style and skills in Breckenridge Colorado after learning it from a fellow
Boulderite and ripper Dave Dowd. Alpine snowboarding is a North American sport pure and simple with names like Mark Fawcett, Jeremy Jones, Mike Jacoby, Ian Price, Jasey Jay Anderson, Rosey Fletcher, Lisa Kosglow, Russ Rebagliati, Michele Gorgone, to name a few taking this sport to higher levels. USSA must not be allowed to kill this sport under no circumstance. One must be careful not to lay all the blame at the doorstep of the skiing organization. There has to be some level of complicity from some snowboarding interests. Those individuals or companies or corporations that sits idle by while USSA guts funding and development for alpine snowboarding. These individuals should not forget that today it is alpine snowboarding tomorrow it could be half pipe given the poor performance of the boys in Sochi but the girls are fine for now. The USA should learn a few tricks or two from its neighbor up north that has developed a strong alpine snowboarding program and a strong boarder cross one to boot. That program produce racing medals on the home soil games. The media also have a role to play, not broadcasting alpine snowboarding at primetime is damaging and when it was broadcast at least one of the commentators need to have alpine experience. It is important to seek these these individuals out and put them behind the microphone and not just another snowboarder with no alpine experience or knowledge. The media will not have Jonny Mosley commentating on a Super G or downhill race, so why do similar thing to snowboarding.
Let us return to the statement made by Luke Bordensteiner to the Denver post, “Our strategic focus on new events like halfpipe and slopestyle
had clear athletic success for us in Sochi and are very relevant to what kids are doing at resorts around the world today”.
http://www.denverpost.com/olympics/ci_25207732/vic-wilds-gold-ring-leads-two-gold-medals. Clearly Luke needs re-education, as half pipe is not a new event or snowboard discipline; Ross Powers and Kelly Clark each brough home the bronze medal from Nagano, that was 1998. The media was full of Mr. White “threepeating” for gold in half pipe, so one has to wonder what Luke was talking about. I am not sure what resorts Luke has been visiting, Deer Valley maybe (oh! sorry Deer valley does not allow snowboarding), or where he was getting his information to notice what is relevant to snowboarders but I can assure you half pipe is not one of them. Heck not all resorts have half pipes. This man is so far removed from snowboarding and as such should have no say in what goes on in snowboarding. Confusing what is relevant with what is new is quite intriguing in its self but also a sign of out of touch management. And while we are at this point of relevancy, Chris Klug and Rosie Fletcher have brought home alpine snowboarding Olympic medals. On the other hand, Cross-Country skiing has yet to bring in a single medal going back to the Nagano Olympics, yet there has been no significant cut to the budget in this discipline. Similar observation can be made of ski jumping and Biathlon. Even the grand daddy of skiing, the alpine racing events, the success of the USSA program can be questioned. Since 1998 medals won can be attributed to Picabo Street, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso. Sochi saw the emergence of the phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Snowboarding on the other hand, with limited and inequity in funding has seen many new faces climb the podium. That is testament to youth development that has been conducted, performed and successfully executed by another organization totally different from USSA. The USA medal counts in snowboarding is as follows: two medals out of twelve in 1998; five medals out of twelve in 2002; seven medals out of eighteen in 2006; five medals out of eighteen in 2010 and five out of thirty in 2014. Again, looking at the performance of USSnowboarding in Sochi, one has to ask what is Luke talking about? What makes it a more difficult pill to swallow is the USSA gave away two gold medals to Russia due to a high level of incompetency and lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the sport of snowboarding that it has been entrusted. It is time to take that stewardship away from this organization.