WHISTLER, BC (Sept. 9) - The U.S. Cross Country Team is in Whistler, BC for pre-season training and to spend some time making the 2010 Olympic venue as familiar to each athlete as the back of his or her hand as they look toward the Games.
"Home course advantage is pretty high. So, we've had a lot of camps here to try to gain that advantage," said Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg. "It's not just about training up here, it's about the athletes trying to focus on the surroundings and get mental pictures put together that they can use for visualization later."
According to Olympian Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) getting used to his surroundings at the Olympic venue will help him when it comes time to go for the gold.
"As far as training at the venue goes, it's a unique opportunity. We can roller ski on what will be the sprint course for the 2010 Games," Cook said. "Every time you ski the loop it's pretty easy to put yourself at the Games two years from now and go through it in your head and get fired up.
"It will be my second Olympics and I'm going in with a lot of focus and great comfort levels and training behind me to be able to focus on results at the Games."
The Team has spent the majority of its time becoming familiar with the area and training in teammate vs. teammate competitions, as well as some matchups with Canadian and U.S. club athletes.
"It becomes a much more competitive and a much more tactical situation where you really have to be aware of what's going on around you," Vordenberg said. "You get immediate feedback on what you're doing and how you're doing it."
For Cook, the opportunity to go up against teammate Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), a sprinter he considers to be one of the best, is an indicator on where he stands competitively.
"Being able to train with Newell - who is quickly becoming one of the best sprinters in the world - is an advantage for someone like myself because I can gauge myself against him," Cook said. "On a good day I can keep up with him. Knowing if you're on form and Newell is on form, that there's not a lot of people in the world who can beat you is a cool thing."
The team also had the chance to bungie jump on a rare day off, but Cook was unable to go - a decision he says he regrets and hopes to amend.
"I was driving a van with some other athletes who didn't go and I almost stopped the van to get out and go, but I didn't," Cook said. "It was a missed opportunity on my part, but I'm hoping to convince another crew to go."
The team left Whistler on Wednesday, and will train again in Lake Placid, NY, in October.