When thinking about the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, warm California sun andcrashing surf don’t automatically pop into mind. So when the Swedish SkiAssociation contacted The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel to inquire aboutaccommodations, reservation agents were surprised to hear it was fortraining prior to the Games, not rest and relaxation afterwards. But asmany Southern Californians know, surfing and snowboarding can be combinedpassions. And athletes will attest to variety in training as a key tosuccess and an escape from boredom.

Five Olympians, Magnus Sterner, Markus Jonsson, Stefan Karlsson, TomasJohansson and Anna Hellman, along with their coaches, will stay and train atThe Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel January 29 through February 3.

“I know it is a different way to get ready for the Olympics, but I think itis exactly what the riders need to relax and focus,” stated Snowboard HeadCoach Stefan Isaksson. “I’ve worked with these athletes for the past fouryears, and I know my riders. This is what they need after a tough season.If we’re going to rock Salt Lake, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is theplace we need to reload our batteries. I know they are going to enjoy thesurfing and the beach just steps away, they’re going to feel relaxed and abit spoiled, enjoying good food and the luxurious environment. That’s whatI think will make them win the Olympic Gold.”

* Magnus Sterner, 23, has emerged over the past two seasons asa star on the World Cup halfpipe circuit, currently the reigning FIS WorldChampion. When not finalizing his tricks for the Olympics, Sterner lovesice hockey and is a great cook.

* After starting the season with a second place finish in theWorld Cup premiere, Markus Jonsson suffered a knee injury, but has not givenup hopes that sun and relaxation at The Ritz-Carlton will allow him a chanceto mend and win a medal in Salt Lake.

* Stefan Karlsson, 21, finished second in the 2001 World Cupand is known for riding the halfpipe so high his coach has to look away. Heis looking forward to the sun and beach, before fulfilling a childhood dreamof competing in the Olympics.

* Tomas Johansson, 23, held the World Cup title in 1999-2000,but was plagued by injury last year. Recovered, his technical skills andamazing feel for the board When not snowboarding, Johansson enjoys fishingand is excited to bring his skateboard to California.

* Anna Hellman, 23, an Olympic veteran and the only womancompeting for the Nordic kingdom, won three World Cup competitions lastseason. She has been riding for 10 years are rarely gets nervous, even whendoing her favorite trick, the fakie 540.

Consistently ranked among the best resorts in the world, The Ritz-Carlton,Laguna Niguel offers a variety of recreational activities, award-winningdining and personalized service. Located halfway between Los Angeles and SanDiego, the resort sits on a 150-foot bluff with panoramic white-water viewsof the Pacific Ocean and two-miles of sandy beach. For more information orreservations call 800-241-3333, the hotel directly at 949-240-2000, a travelprofessional or visit The Ritz-Carlton web site at www.ritzcarlton.com.