Letter: A bad decision | AspenTimes.com

Letter: A bad decision

Editor's note: The following letter was originally addressed to Aspen Times columnist Roger Marolt.

Thank you for your Dec. 6 article in The Aspen Times, "Vacancy at the Olympic Village." I was the women's U.S. Ski Team/Olympic slalom and giant slalom coach during the Sarajevo Olympics, and your uncle Bill Marolt was my boss. Later in my career, I became director of athlete development and alpine director for the team.

I remember in late summer or early fall 1983, Bill directed each coaching staff, men's and women's, to establish criteria for selection to the 1984 Olympic team. Bill set the parameters, but the staffs themselves developed the criteria, one of which I believe was to score one top 10 or two top 20s in World Cup races leading up to the Olympics.

I recall that after the last World Cup race before Sarajevo, when it was apparent the women's team did not have a full Olympic quota of athletes based on the established criteria, Bill asked us, the women's staff, if we wanted to consider filling the quota with the next athletes in line based on their results. I assume Bill asked the men's staff the same question. We, the women's coaches, told Bill that we wanted to stick with the criteria established in the fall. Bill supported our decision and took the heat and criticism. I admired Bill because when we left a meeting room, right or wrong, he publicly supported his staff.

It did not take me long afterward to realize that this was the worst decision that I was ever a part of during my years with the U.S. Ski Team. Not only, as you suggested, did it "undermine the depth of human spirit," but it violated the Olympic creed and an unwritten principle in this country (maybe it is written now) that we fill our quotas with deserving athletes. Later on I would also learn, as I was directing athlete development and as alpine director, that the Sarajevo decision probably set us back for two Olympic cycles. I also believe that not filling the quotas in Sarajevo did not have any bearing on the final medal count; maybe we would have scored more medals with full quotas!

Thank you again, Roger, for your insightful article. I have enjoyed working for your uncle and admire his many accomplishments and contributions to skiing and athletics.

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John McMurtry

Director of development, Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Vail