In political parlance, one could say that local Mammoth skier cross athlete Johnny Teller’s shot at an Olympic team berth is the victim of a vast, hero-worship conspiracy. Teller, who finished sixth at the recent X Games, is a logical choice to replace injured team members Casey Puckett, nursing a separated left shoulder, and Daron Rahlves, recovering from a dislocated his right hip.
At the moment, however, Teller still sits on the non-injured reserve bench. Puckett has said Teller should be placed on the team if either he or Rahlves aren’t up to the task, but so far neither has thrown in the towel. Far from it, it seems.
Latest reports in the New York Times indicated the two are still planning to race. United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSSA) CEO Bill Marlot earlier this week even went so far as to declare to the Associated Press that both were recovering at home and “will be fully ready to go” for the Vancouver Games. The Skier Cross competition takes place on Feb. 21. (Training camp starts Feb. 14.)
Meanwhile, Tyler Shepherd, the United States skier cross coach, appears to be suffering from a bout of denial, seemingly unwilling to consider what would happen if Rahlves, Puckett or both would be unable to compete.
“We’re fully expecting them to be set to go for Vancouver,” Shepherd told the NY Times. “They’re both very tough guys.”
Tough guys or not, U.S. skiers will have to bring their A-game if they’re to fend off a major challenge shaping up from a strong Canadian team that would like nothing better than to clean up on its home turf.
Shepherd’s reaction has also met criticism by some in the media, given a recent statement he made acknowledging that Rahlves and Puckett need to be 100 percent if the team hopes to bring home a medal, especially a gold. “The gold medal is not going to be won by going 80 percent,” Shepherd was quoted as saying.
Asked about the situation, Teller is trying to stay grounded. “Daron [Rahlves] is a stud. He’s had this injury before and after the latest recurrence, just walked out of the hospital that night [Sunday, Jan. 24.],” Teller said. “Basically I’m just back in reality waiting for the phone to ring.”
In the meantime, Teller said you can catch him at the Village Championships competing for his father Karl’s “Fossil Fuel” team sponsored by Mammoth Chevron.
So, while both Puckett and Rahlves may be currently at that 80 percent level, a 100 percent Johnny Teller sits in Mammoth toiling away at Alpine Garage, waiting for the phone to ring. –Sheet Staff