Dussault in wait-and-see mode for U.S. Olympic team opportunity

Closes with solid week at national championships

Now comes the hard part for Gunnison Valley resident, 2010 Olympic cross-country team hopeful and “multi-sport momma” Rebecca Dussault: the wait and see.
Dussault set her sights on making the 2010 U.S. Olympic cross-country team headed to Vancouver this year and has followed a rigorous road schedule to get in the necessary races. The quest took her throughout the west from West Yellowstone in November, to Bozeman, Mont. and Silverstar, Canada in December and culminating with the U.S. Cross-Country National Championships in Anchorage January 2-8.
While the road has been long and the races intense, perhaps the hardest part to the qualification process comes now, as Dussault must wait until January 19 when the team will be announced.
“Now it’s hurry up and wait,” says Dussault. “It’s a painful waiting process, but it’s worth it.”
The national championships were the last opportunity for athletes to prove themselves as candidates for the team and Dussault opened the week of racing with a stellar sprint freestyle result, taking second place.
“The skate sprint blew my expectations out of the water,” says Dussault.
Dussault was primed to continue her assault on the national scene, lining up for the 10-kilometer freestyle (skate) event two days later. The freestyle discipline, specifically long distance freestyle events, has long been Dussault’s specialty. Unfortunately, the pressure got to her as she fell prey to her own expectations.
“I really heaped a lot of pressure on myself,” says Dussault.
Dussault posted a sixth-place result, leaving two more events, a 20-kilometer classic race and a classic sprint, for Dussault to state her case for the Olympic team.
As she prepared for the 20-kilometer classic race, she reminded herself of her ability in the discipline, and that distance in any event always works to her advantage.
“I just repeated to myself a mantra, ‘I am a classic skier,’” explains Dussault. “Throwing in distance always helps me, too.”
Athletes were met with 30-degree temperatures and dumping snow, making ski selection and waxing all that more integral to success. While Dussault suffered from some slippage, i.e. no kick to help with glide, she still found herself in a tight battle for a podium slot.
Dussault set her sights on a current U.S. team member and knocked her off to climb into fourth place as the skiers headed toward the stadium finish.
“I knew I could out-ski her on the downhills so I took some risks on the way back to the stadium,” says Dussault.
As she turned to the finish line sprint she was neck and neck with another racer and cut to the inside to make her move. Unfortunately, it was the wrong move as she found herself off in four inches of new snow, slowing her down just enough to be edged off the podium by two-hundredths of a second and finish in fourth place with a time of 1:15:06.
“It was really crazy at the end,” says Dussault. “Had I gone to the left I could have easily been on the podium. I was still excited about the day as a whole.”
Dussault closed the week with a thrilling fifth-place finish in the final race. After qualifying through three preliminary heats Dussault was in the finals with five other skiers. The top three took off right from the start, leaving three in a battle for fourth place. Dussault found herself shoulder-to-shoulder with Holly Brooks, the same woman Dussault beat by a ski tip at the finish line to win the 2009 Birkebeiner.
The two did the same again, lunging for the finish, and this time Brooks was a ski tip ahead of Dussault.
“It was terribly exciting,” says Dussault. “We both flew out into the splits like we did at the Birkie.”
Dussault’s effort from the week moved her up a spot in the USSA (United States Ski Association) rankings from seventh to sixth place overall, a move that may just get her on the team.
It all depends on how many are going to Vancouver. As it stands, Dussault believes four women and four men will be named on January 19.
According to John Farra, U.S. Nordic Team director, nothing is set in stone as they await the official decision on January 18 from FIS (Federation Internationale du Ski) regarding how many athletes each country can take.
If the United States is allowed eight total, Dussault’s chances are slim, but if the United States can name 12 total (six men and six women), things look good for Dussault with her sixth-place USSA ranking.
One wild card in the equation is the “coaches discretion” criteria, whereby an athlete can be named to the team regardless of their USSA ranking. It turns out that “coaches discretion” is the second criteria this year for being named to the team.
“That could bode well for me and it could not,” explains Dussault. “In others words, they know me and my strengths, which could be good but if the coaches opt to start going with the younger athletes, that could work against me.”
Nevertheless, Dussault is now turning her attention to her other specialty, winter triathlons. She’s pulled her bike out of storage to prepare for the 2010 USAT Winter Triathlon National Championship in Salt Lake City on January 16 at Soldier Hallow. A top-three finish there will qualify her for the Winter Triathlon World Championships.
“If I’m not going to be in Vancouver I’m going to Oslo, Norway for the European and World Winter Triathlon Championships,” says Dussault. “Multi-sport momma.”

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