Cook’s Olympic ride short, mostly sweet

By: Dave Krizman Journal Sports Columnist
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Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series on U.S. Olympic skier Stacey Cook, who grew up in Truckee.

Stacey Cook’s Olympic experience was 1.33 seconds too long.
That was the difference between her time of 1 minute, 46.98 seconds in the Women’s Olympic Downhill race, placing her 11th in the event, and the bronze medal time of 1:45.65.
“Four years of training and it was over in one minute and 45 seconds,” Cook said. “That was my chance. I tried to podium (finish in the top three). I have lots of mixed emotions right now. In 10 years, I know I will look back on my run and be proud of it, but I was so close.”
For Cook, it has been a roller coaster of emotions from her crash in her first practice run on the downhill course at Whistler, to her stellar run in the finals, to time spent with her family, to time spent with the Olympic snowboarding team and time spent seeing her first Olympic competition outside of alpine skiing.
After Cook’s horrific crash in practice, she struggled with the delays in getting back out on the course because of the weather.
“The delays were good for my body,” she said. “It gave me time to heal, because everything hurt. I have never hurt so badly in my life. But the delays were also bad for my brain. I had to get back on my skis and overcome the fear that I had. I had to prove to myself that I could persevere and overcome the fear of the crash.”
The day after her race last Thursday, Cook spent a day with her family. On Thursday, they all went for a zip-line ride at Whistler. On Friday and Saturday, Cook ventured down to Vancouver and went out one evening with the snowboarding team. Cook put it mildly: “These people are crazy.”
Despite this being her second Olympics, she had never seen an Olympic competition. This changed when she watched Shani Davis of the U.S. win a silver medal in speed skating at 1,500 meters.
“This was my chance to meet other Olympic athletes and enjoy the Olympic experience,” Cook said.
When I caught up with Cook several days ago, she and most of the Alpine skiers had already left the Olympics. She and her teammates were in Aspen, Colo. preparing for the US.. Nationals, and according to Cook, “a real let-down and hard to get motivated for.”
“It’s hard to get up for a race right after the Olympics, but you must refocus because the downhill requires all your attention,” Cook added.
Cook and her fellow teammates immediately noticed a difference in service after they left Whistler and the Olympics.
“When we were in Whistler, the Alpine ski team stayed in a rented condo and had our own chef,” Cook said. “We did this because when we were in Turin four years ago, we stayed in the Olympic Village, but there was too much partying going on for athletes who had already finished their competitions. We get to our condo in Aspen and asked, ‘Where’s the chef?’ We were back to cooking our own food.”
While many Olympic sports finish their seasons after the Olympics, many of the alpine skiers continue on the World Cup circuit. Cook will fly to Europe after the U.S. Nationals to continue on the professional World Cup tour.
Already, Cook has begun her training for the next Olympics in 2014 in Russia, hoping to make up that time of 1:33 seconds.