2014-02-23 05:01 PM
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- These are the last Olympics for Bill Marolt as head of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. If that's news -- or if you don't even know who Marolt is -- then he feels like he's done his job.
Marolt has largely stayed out of the limelight over his 18 years with USSA and let the results speak for themselves.
They've spoken rather loudly.
The U.S. ski team put 17 different athletes onto the Olympic podium this year, matching the record set in Vancouver. That accounts for around two-thirds of the medals Team USA is bringing home. The U.S. ski team was a single-digit medal winner as recently as 1998.
The surge can be credited mainly to two things:
--Improved training and athlete support in Alpine, cross country and action sports, so the federation could actually develop athletes instead of simply hoping a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Picabo Street shows up at their door.
--USSA's push to have extreme sports added to the mix. Yes, the addition of snowboarding and freeskiing events can be looked at as somewhat selfish -- it's never bad to push for a bunch of new events where you're going to win all the medals. But also selfless. Snowboarders and freestyle skiers are watching now, and a once-aging Olympics audience is starting to skew younger.
"What I brought, more than anything, was a focus on athletic success," Marolt said. "We defined what we were as an organization. We're a fundraiser. We run events. But what we really needed to do, day-to-day, is stay focused on the athletes and focused on winning and being the best in the world."
-- By Eddie Pells -- Twitter http://twitter.com/epells
Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu