Final push begins in Steamboat |

Final push begins in Steamboat

— Sparse crowds greeted the members of the Russian Nordic Combined Team when they arrived at Howelsen Hill Monday for training.

But if it was congested jumping hills and cross country trials the Russians were hoping to avoid the team’s days are numbered.

Rick DeVos, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club executive director, said 11 teams would be in Steamboat Springs training before the start of the Olympic Games. By the end of the week, teams from Norway and the United States are expected to start their final push to the games. Squads from Japan, France, Slovakia, Estonia, Finland, Slovenia, Switzerland and Germany will also join the pack before the end of next week.

“This is a great time,” DeVos said. “It’s one last chance to see these great athletes before they head to Salt Lake. It’s very exciting.”

Gary Crawford, Winter Sports Club coach, said it means a little more work for the staff at Howelsen, but it’s well worth the effort to get these elite athletes back in Steamboat Springs.

The hills in Park City have been closed in preparation for the games, so Crawford said Steamboat is a natural choice for teams who want to prepare for the conditions in Utah.

Crawford said Steamboat’s altitude which is nearly the same as Park City’s and the fact that Steamboat is so close to Park City (just six hours from where the jumping event will be held) combine to make it a perfect training stop.

“Once all the teams are here they will be broken into two groups,” Crawford said. “That way all the teams can get in the training they need.”

Training will begin every day at 10:30 a.m. and continue until 12:30 p.m. Starting Jan. 30 there will be two sessions. The first will open at 10 a.m. and a second will follow at 11:30 a.m. On the busiest days all 11 teams will be on the hill.

DeVos said the training schedule is limited to the morning, so that normal Winter Sports Club Programs will not be interfered with.

There will be a regional Junior Olympic qualifying meet on

Feb. 2 and DeVos is hoping some of the skiers from the visiting nations will take part in the open class of that event.

“It’s totally up to them,” DeVos said. “But we have heard they like to train in a competition format and this would be a great training opportunity for them.”

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