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Young Aspenite aims to be among world’s best skiers

Allyn Harvey

When Will McDonald arrives in Munich this weekend, it will bea family affair, with his parents and sister along for the trip.But when the 15-year-old Aspen High School freshman slides intothe starting gate on March 5 at the Topolino Children’s Racesin Marilleva, Italy, he’ll be standing all alone, up against someof the best 13-, 14- and 15-year-old-skiers in the world. “Topolino, is, actually, for that age group, the world championships,”explained coach Hermann Gollner.The Topolino race is held in Italy every year, and it has beenan important stop for nearly all of Europe’s top racers for thelast two and a half decades, including Ingemar Stenmark and AlbertoTomba. In the last six to eight years, it has become equally importantfor American racers.Will is the first home-grown Aspenite to compete in the race.Last season, a student at the Snowmass Ski Academy qualified,but he was from Littleton, Colo., according to press reports.To qualify, Will beat out every racer in the J3 group (all ofwhom were born in 1984 or 1985) in the Rocky Mountain and Centralregions. He joins two other boys, one from the West Coast andone from the East, and three girls in representing the UnitedStates against teams from 40 other countries.He has been racing since he was 8 or 9, and has been at the topof his age group for three seasons. Will says that he hasn’t reallythought about Europe or what it means to race there – he’s takinghis growing reputation in stride.”It’s a big race, a really big race,” he said, “but I have totreat it like all other races.”If he performs as well at Marilleva as he has at other races thisseason, Will should finish near the top. Last month in WinterPark, he took fourth in the giant slalom and fifth in the slalomagainst a field of racers that included older J1 and J2 racers,according to race results. Most of the racers who edged out Willwere college-level skiers.”He was beating guys 18 to 20 years old,” Gollner said. “If youcan do that at Will’s age – beat out guys that are two or threeyears older – then you’ve got to have something.”Gollner is a native of Austria who has coached with the AspenValley Ski Club since the mid 1980s. He will accompany McDonaldto Europe. Gollner said that getting accustomed to skiing and competing inEurope has been a problem for many American racers, so McDonaldwill begin racing in junior events about 10 days before the mainevent. Current plans call for Will to have at least three or fourstarts before the race at Marilleva. “In Europe,” Gollner said, “there’s just a lot of Will McDonalds.They’re everywhere – Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany.”If Aspen’s Will McDonald manages to place near the top of thefield in Marilleva, it could signal a promising career in skiracing. “Most of the guys that placed on top of those internationaljunior races had very long World Cup careers,” Gollner noted.


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