Aspen’s Klug set to ride today
Aspen Times Staff Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – On the eve of the 2002 Olympic snowboarding parallel giant slalom at Park City Mountain Resort, America’s top rider, Chris Klug of Aspen, was relaxed yet focused.
In fact, when contacted last night for an interview, Klug was taking a nap.
“Focus comes with experience,” said Klug, who placed sixth to be the top American alpine finisher in snowboarding’s Olympic debut at Nagano in 1998. “I’ve found that if I focus on the outcome, like trying to win a medal, it hasn’t worked well for me. So I try to focus on the process and having fun, and just go out charging.
“This is my 19th year boarding and my 10th year on the World Cup circuit,” Klug continued, “and after awhile you get used to it. But I’ll be nervous tomorrow – it’s the Olympics!”
Physically, Klug, 29, is ready to take on the world. In the past 18 months, he’s recovered from liver-transplant surgery and re-established himself as one of the top riders on the World Cup tour. And in the past month, Klug has been training in overdrive, including a stint on the Olympic hill at Park City with his teammates before any of the other competitors arrived in town.
“We had training on the hill today, and it was buffed,” Klug said recently. “It’s Aspen Mountain ego snow; super-grip Colorado conditions, and it’s what we’re used to. I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for us.”
In the Olympic PGS, the 16 fastest riders in today’s qualifier advance to the finals on Friday. As one of the top-16 ranked riders in the world, Klug will be the top-seeded American today. Meanwhile, Klug’s American PGS teammates, Jeff Greenwood of Connecticut and Peter Thorndike of New Hampshire, will start out of the top-16 in accordance with their world ranking.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m pretty excited,” Klug said. “It should be perfect racing conditions, a great course, the best racers in the world and it’s the Olympics on our home turf. You can’t ask for much more.”
On Friday for the finals, the No. 1 qualifier faces off in two head-to-head runs with the No. 16 rider, and so on. The fastest rider, based on the total time from two runs, advances to the next round, until only two men remain to battle for the gold.
In today’s qualifying round, Klug said he plans to exercise restraint.
“I’m going to go for it, but I’m not going to go overboard,” he said. “As long as you’re in there [in the 16-man finals], that’s great. You’re going to have to face the best riders in the world at some point anyway. But I’m hoping to get off to a great start and keep the momentum going for Friday.”
Besides being Valentine’s Day today, Feb. 14 is also national organ donor awareness day. And as the first transplant Olympian, it’s a day Klug, and his family, treat with life-and-death seriousness.
When asked last night if he was dedicating his Olympic effort to anyone or anything, Klug paused for a moment, then replied:
“Well, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the donor family and their decision, and I’m very grateful for that. But it’s also for my grandma [Anne McMahon]. She’s sick with cancer and she couldn’t make it. She came to Nagano and said it was one of the best experiences of her life. So I was sad she couldn’t make it this time, and that’s why I’m riding for her, too. And, of course, I’m also representing Aspen, and all the people who supported me and helped me get here.”
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Peter Arnold’s playing career ended after high school, but his time on the ice continues a few decades later. A longtime USA Hockey official and new Aspen resident, Arnold is searching for the next generation of hockey referees among the youth ranks here in the Roaring Fork Valley.