For these competitors, they reached the end of the line. Their four-year quest to once more qualify for the Winter Games fell short – either by choice, by being beaten-out by their teammates, or by simply the luck of the draw.
Most alarming were the plights that two Olympic champions faced. Gold medal hopefuls: alpine skier Lindsey Vonn and figure skater Evan Lysacek suffered from injuries that could not be overcome. During their Olympics qualification run, each grappled with their heart-wrenching decision to risk their bodies to chase their dreams.
Vonn said, "I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level.”
Whereas, Lysacek was more worried about his future health. “The doctors advised me to shut down the training, because I could be doing severe and permanent [hip] damage.”
Other Olympics medalists were upended by a new breed of younger athlete, especially within the action sport ranks. Seeking to reclaim the podium, halfpipe snowboarders Scotty Lago and Gretchen Bleiler missed the four-man cut in a nail-biting, five-event qualification series that came down to the wire.
In a recent Facebook posting, Bleiler looks ahead to the future, “This will be my last competition season, but I'm definitely not done snowboarding! Thank you to all who have stood by to support and cheer me on during my competitive career! “
Similarly, two-time gold medalist Seth Wescott also gave it his best – against a tough field of snowboardcross teammates, and despite a lingering injury.
“Getting back up to speed, it takes a little while, with my whole scenario, my coming off injury. I knew it was going to be a tough order for me to jump back on in basically on the last weekend and try to make [the Olympic Team],” Wescott said in an NBC interview.
A few short and long track skaters fell short in their medal repeat quest. Vancouver medaling short trackers Allison Baver, Kimberly Derrick, Lana Gehring, and long tracker Trevor Marsicano are now contemplating their futures.
Lastly, some veterans just missed punching a Sochi Olympics ticket, as luck would have it. Luger Julia Clukey was edged out by a teenager in the last Olympics qualifying race. “Missing out on the chance to compete in the upcoming Olympics is very disappointing. Tonight’s race came down to fractions of a second and I gave it everything I had,” said Clukey.
But no doubt the hard luck story among these athletes is aerialist Dylan Ferguson who qualified for the Vancouver Games but could not compete due to an appendicitis outbreak. Seeking to avenge this heartbreak, he set his sights on Sochi, and rose through the ranks to notch the tenth spot in the current FIS Word Cup rankings.
Despite this highest ranking among his teammates, the coaching staff used the now infamous “discretionary pick” option, which is available to them, to choose instead a rising upstart with future promise.
When the decision was announced last week, the puzzled Ferguson posted on his Facebook page, “Pretty surreal day. I just missed the cut due to the official criteria set forth by the US Olympic Committee."
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