BURLINGTON, VT ¿ March, 7, 2002 ¿ The results of the snowboarding events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games show, for the second time, that free enterprise – not national team training – is the most effective system in developing snowboarding medallists.
Many people have a false impression, supported by ambiguous communications from the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), that America’s snowboarding success is a result of the USSA’s “US Snowboard Team” efforts. This is not the case.
-Of the 5 US snowboarding medallists at The Games, only one is actually of the US Snowboard Team.
-4 of the 5 US snowboarding medallists are professional athletes who qualified through competition ahead of US Snowboard Team athletes and earned slots at The Games.
-None of the 3 Americans in the Men’s Halfpipe sweep is of the US Snowboard Team.
-Of the 14 riders representing the US at The Games, only 5 were of the US Snowboard Team.
-At The 1998 Games, of the 14 riders representing the US, only 4 were of the US Snowboard Team.
It’s confusing, but the US Snowboard Team marketed by the USSA right up to the last qualifying event for the Olympics is not the Olympic team. Competitions held in the US just prior to the Olympics determine who will go to The Games, after which the USSA claims dubious ownership of all qualifiers and their medals.
When The Games end, the professionals go back to their careers, while the USSA returns to marketing their US Snowboard Team without them. Yet the USSA still claims the medals as the work of “the Team” in statements like this one from US Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt: “This was a team effort and we take a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of these athletes and especially in achieving our team goal.”
This is not to say the USSA is all bad. In fact, thanks to efforts of staffers like Jeremy Forster, the USSA’s competitions are quality, respected events with ample media coverage. USSA staff has made sincere efforts to create training opportunities for professional riders, sometimes against the wishes of USSA management. Professional riders have trained with their staff (for a reasonable cost) without becoming a team member or giving up existing endorsement contracts. The USSA has developed athletes.
However, the distinction between the US Snowboard Team and successful US snowboarders at the Olympics is important. Snowboarding demonstrates that free enterprise works. The best athletes train, compete, choose sponsors, and manage their careers as they choose¿as individuals. The team system does not work, and is essentially a marketing device for USSA to sell to its sponsors and fund its activities.
Free enterprise, an American ethic, continues to be the most effective means of developing medal-winning snowboarders. We proved this to the world again at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.