With a veteran group of athletes and the return of Kerry Lynch and Jim Galanes, the U.S. ski team's Nordic squad is hoping for an outstanding 1986 season, says program director Jim Page.
"We have committed and experienced athletes and enough talent to significantly improve our fortunes in international competition," said Page.
The squad will again be led by Bill Koch, 30, Eugene, Ore., the best U.S. Nordic skier ever to compete for the United States.
Koch became the first American to win an Olympic cross country skiing medal with his second-place finish in the men's 30-kilometer at the 1976 Winter Games.
In 1982, his best season, Koch picked up four international victories and won the men's overall World Cup title, plus a bronze medal in the 30-K at the FIS World Championships.
"Bill will be strong again this year, especially in the 10- and 30-kilometer races," said Page. "But he mainly plans to concentrate on the three World Cup races in North America during December and the final three series of races in Scandinavia at the end of the season."
Galanes, 29, Anchorage, Alaska, a three-time Olympian, rejoins the cross country squad after sitting out the 1985 season. Page said Galanes, Koch and Audun Endestad, 32, Fairbanks, Alaska, will give his men's team "probably more depth and experience than we've ever had."
Page, however, is more excited about his jumpers.
"We have six (jumpers) who are good," said Page. "They all jump full bore and (Mike) Holland could be the best in the world by the 1988 Winter Olympics (Calgary)."
Holland, 24, Norwich, Vt., placed 10th in the final 1985 World Cup ski jumping standings with seven top 10 finishes.
"All our top jumpers have scored among the top 10 in World Cup meets this past year. And, if this group continues on its present course, several could be medal contenders in Calgary."
The other "A Team" jumpers are: Mark Konopacke, 22, Kingsford, Mich.; Rick Mewborn, 20, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Zane Palmer, 24, Kremmling, Colo.; Nils Stolzlechner, 23, Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Chris Hastings, 21, Norwich, Vt.
Lynch, 28, Denver, is back on the national Nordic combined team after sitting out the last half of the 1984 season due to a knee injury and missing all of last year while recovering from surgery on the knee.
"The doctors have given Kerry a clean bill of health for the coming season. And, with Pat Ahern, we anticipate the strongest Nordic combined group we've ever had," Page said.
Lynch finished third in the 1983 overall Nordic combined standings, where athletes compete in both jumping and cross country skiing, while Ahern, 25, Breckenridge, Colo., was 12th in the 1984 World Cup standings and 14th last year.
The team's only weak area, according to Page, is its women's cross country squad.
"Our women have made some terrific strides, but we're still behind the major powers," he said.
Page said 1986 should be an "interesting season" because the traditionally powerful Soviets "are apparently disorganized for the first time in memory" and the Finnish program "is in a state of upheaval."
He predicts the Norwegians will have the best men's team, while Czechoslovakia should dominate the women's cross country events.
"We could be fourth of fifth in the men's team standings, but we just don't have the strength for our women to place that high," Page said.