Ski Racing magazine – January 2007 Marco Sullivan is back in the saddle again, even if the saddle is essentially a rock hard sheet of ice. Sidelined for two winters from knee injuries, the 26 year-old ski racer from Truckee just proved his worth on the nasty Birds of Prey course in Colorado.
Returning to the scene of the crime, since this is where Sullivan was injured in 2004, the racer posted solid results this past weekend – 21st in Super Combined and 10th in the downhill. The super combi is a newer event, with one run of either downhill or super-g added to one run of slalom.
Using the combined as another chance to warm up for the downhill, Sullivan raced well enough in the speed part, and skied amazingly well in a slalom that bucked off eleven other competitors.
“I hadn’t trained recently in slalom,” admitted the racer. “My attitude for this slalom was there was no way I was even going to finish the run. I started pretty gung ho, so I could look okay until I went out. Then on the last pitch, I realized ‘holy crap, I’m gonna finish this thing!’ so I got really conservative. At that point, I didn’t want to hook [a tip] and ski out.”
World Cup points are awarded the top 30 finishers of any race, so his weekend results earned him points in both events. Sullivan’s main goal this winter is to get 400 points from all his race results, so he’s well set up for next winter.
“The 400 point rule allows racers to get good starting numbers in any discipline. So if I’m ranked top 30 in downhill, I race somewhere in the first group of 30. But if I’m only ranked, say, 50th in giant slalom, I’m racing outside that top group in worse conditions. The 400 point rule allows me to enter that GS race and start just after the top 30 guys,” explained Marco.
The downhill portion of the weekend brought a solid run from Sullivan, a product of the Squaw Valley ski team. Racing third on a snowy, gray day, he was one of four Americans in the top ten. Teammate Bode Miller won the race.
Sullivan commented, “My run was fine, but I was hoping to put the hammer down a little more. The snow was definitely a little slow up top, but all the later guys seemed to have similar conditions, so it wasn’t about conditions. Visibility was kind of flat, and I was having trouble with my goggles. They fogged a little bit at the start, so on the top flat, I was adjusting them in my tuck. It was tough, but that’s just how it was…
“At our team meeting the night before, it was pretty intense. Everyone wants to kick a** on the home hill, and we were fired up for sure. We were hoping for a little better weather. It helps to be able to put the hammer down if it’s sunny,” he finished with a laugh.
Helping boost Sullivan from the finish area was his fan club, recently formed by sister Chelsea of Jackson Hole, WY. Traveling from many states all over the west, and sporting sweatshirts Chelsea designed for the group, a pack of 35 made quite some noise when Marco was on the hill. He felt good about racing with a biased audience, which also included his father.
“Maybe there is extra pressure having family around,” admitted Sullivan, “but most athletes thrive under pressure. It’s just great to have a ton of people to cheer you on. If you look at my results, my best World Cup performances were the 10th place here, 9th at the Salt Lake Olympics and 6th at Beaver Creek in 2003. All at races in the U.S…There is definitely something to be said for the motivation of having friends and family around.”
Sullivan’s group wore hoodies that simply stated ‘Marco Sullivan Fan Club.’ He’s grateful that his buddies didn’t get as creative as the fan club for Canada’s Michael Janyk, which said “Mike Janyk is My Gay Lover” on the men’s shirts and “My Baby Looks Just Like Mike Janyk” for the women.
Now Sullivan is headed to another Super combined in Reiteralm, Austria and he plans to train slalom this week.
He said, “Now that I’ve raced a slalom and saw my results, I’m going to train more. I was kind of in denial about slalom until now. But it’s another way for me to get World Cup points. I feel really good about my downhill. It’s decent now and can improve. I only see it getting better.
“It seemed like it was a really long summer and I’m stoked that winter is here. I’m embracing it fully.”