Mikaela Shiffrin Learned to Ski in Vail. She Learned to Race in Vermont.

The conditions were awful. Which made them ideal. How the ice of the Northeast helped Shiffrin become the best technical skier in the world.

“It’s perfect conditions,” said Bug Pech, Shiffrin’s high-school roommate, “because it’s horrible conditions.”

.. “You grow up in the East, and you know how to ski on ice,” said Erik Schlopy, a Burke alumnus who skied in three Olympics. “There’s no better training ground than Vermont because it’s icy.”
Anyone who has skied both sides of the United States would say the mountains out West are bigger and better in almost every way. The powder in destination resorts like Vail is the soft, pillowy stuff of skiing paradise. But for ski racers, that’s a problem. They want the consistency of hard snow, and they’ll go anywhere to feel the power of their sharp turns.

.. The conditions in Vermont were almost identical to the conditions she would one day encounter across Europe. “The World Cup runs are pure ice,” Schlopy said. “It’s basically a slab of marble that’s a mile long.”

.. Even something as seemingly meaningless as her means of transportation was essential to Shiffrin’s development. She didn’t ride the sort of high-speed lifts that chauffeur recreational skiers atop resort destinations. Shiffrin was towed uphill by an old Poma bar. It picked her up at the bottom of the course and deposited her right back at the top. There was no wasted time or energy, and her feet never left the snow.

.. But how did she get all those extra runs? By getting dressed faster than any of her Burke classmates. That’s right: Mikaela Shiffrin was even the fastest at getting dressed.

.. She studied film instead of watching movies, and she shrugged at fresh dumps of snow instead of shredding it. “I’m not really that into powder,” Shiffrin said.

… She made her World Cup debut at 15, won her first race at 17 and struck Olympic gold at 18. She’s now 22 and seems to be peaking.

The Olympians Who Want to Be Jet-Lagged

American ski-jumpers have an unusual plan for Pyeongchang. Can it work?

But the difference between ski-jumpers and other Winter Olympians is that there might be value in not being mentally sharp. Some would rather be slightly foggy. They believe it can actually help calm their nerves.

.. their sport is far more taxing on their brains than their bodies. “The closest thing I can compare it to is golf,”

.. “Mentally, it feels like suicide,” he said. “The closer you come to committing suicide without committing suicide, the better you’re going to be.”

.. the worst thing you can do before flying into the abyss is think too much. And it’s almost impossible to think—let alone think too much—with your head in the clouds. Which is exactly the point.

.. They have been encouraged to use jet lag to their unlikely advantage by USA Nordic Sport executive director Bill Demong.

.. “My experience was that if I left the U.S. on Wednesday night and arrived in Europe on Thursday that I would have my best competition of the trip on Saturday,”

.. Most professional sports teams now attempt everything in their power to minimize their circadian disruption. The NBA even baked in an extra day of travel between Finals trips so the players will be the best versions of themselves in the biggest games of the year.

The rot in USA Gymnastics goes beyond Larry Nassar

I mean, how many of us can honestly say that, until now, we had the utmost confidence in the adults at the top of U.S. gymnastics? I keep thinking of the moment in 1996, when coach Bela Karolyi urged Olympian Kerri Strug to ignore her injured ankle long enough to execute a final vault for the team gold medal. As the bearish coach carried the tiny heroine to the medal stand, I was as appalled by him as I was inspired by her.

.. Having witnessed the casual way in which Strug’s caretakers sent the injured teen to stick another landing — a feat of tremendous skill and beauty that ends with roughly the same violent impact as being thrown from the roof of a garage — the whole world was on notice. Certain values guided the thinking of these people, and safety of the athletes was not high among them.

 .. So it came as no great surprise when stories cropped up from time to time of psychological abuse inside the training camp run by Karolyi and his wife, Marta.
.. Scott Reid of the Orange County Register let us know that gymnasts training for Team USA were subjected to near-starvation diets — 900 calories per day to fuel a world-class athlete. The purpose of this, as a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine made clear in 2000, was to delay the onset of puberty
.. “In female gymnasts the onset of menarche can be influenced by keeping the amount of fat mass low.”
.. Nassar groomed his victims by smuggling food to them. Or that the adults in his skeevy orbit cared more about whether his “patients” won medals than whether the doctor was assaulting them.
.. Most elite athletes also cultivate self-discipline, ambition, self-sacrifice and endurance: admirable qualities, but ones that make young athletes highly vulnerable to exploitive coaches, trainers
.. Ours is not the first civilization to condone the torture of talented children because they delight us. For centuries, certain choirboys were castrated to preserve their sweet, high voices. As recently as the 1800s, “castrati” were among the most popular singers in Europe.Think of that during the next Olympics as you ask yourself whether our gymnasts are being fed. If the answer is no, change the channel.

Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria.

.. President Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

.. In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” In response, Mr. Kim said he would deploy the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States, and described Mr. Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

.. on Jan. 2, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., warned the 200 civilians and service members in the audience that more Special Forces personnel might have to shift to the Korea theater from the Middle East in May or June, if tensions escalate on the peninsula.

.. Military officials said General Milley has cited the ill-fated

  • Battle of the Kasserine Pass during World War II, when unprepared American troops were outfoxed and then pummeled by the forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Germany. General Milley has also recently mentioned
  • Task Force Smith, the poorly equipped, understrength unit that was mauled by North Korean troops in 1950 during the Korean War.

.. fretted about a loss of what he has called muscle memory: how to fight a large land war, including one in which an established adversary is able to bring sophisticated air defenses, tanks, infantry, naval power and even cyberweapons into battle.

.. There have been no travel warnings advising Americans to stay away from South Korea or Japan, and no advisories warning American businesses to be cautious.

.. It is unlikely that the Pentagon would launch military action on the Korean Peninsula without first warning Americans and others there, military officials said — unless the Trump administration believes that the United States could conduct a one-time airstrike on North Korea that would not bring any retaliation from Pyongyang to nearby Seoul.

.. Some officials in the White House have argued that such a targeted, limited strike could be launched with minimal, if any, blowback against South Korea — a premise that Mr. Mattis views with skepticism,

.. But for Mr. Mattis, the planning serves to placate Mr. Trump.

.. protects Mr. Mattis from suggestions that he is out of step with Mr. Trump.

.. The maneuvers were aimed at forcing an enemy to fight on different fronts early in combat.

.. Officials said maneuvers practiced in the exercise, called Panther Blade, could be used anywhere, not just on the Korean Peninsula.

.. Another exercise, called Bronze Ram

.. Air Force B-1 bombers flying from Guam have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula

..  B-52 bombers based in Louisiana are expected to join the B-1s stationed on Guam later this month

.. three B-2 bombers and their crews had arrived in Guam from their base in Missouri.

.. unlike the very public buildup of forces in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war .. the Pentagon is seeking to avoid making public all its preparations for fear of inadvertently provoking a response by Mr. Kim

.. “I’ll also add that right now, the Defense Department is in support of Secretary of State Tillerson, who’s got a campaign to be the lead with North Korea in a diplomatic endeavor,” General Jamieson said.