Carbondale ski enthusiast returns with mixed feelings |

Carbondale ski enthusiast returns with mixed feelings

A local cross-country skiing enthusiast finds himself both excited about his sport and disappointed in it after having helped out at races at the Winter Olympics.

Andrew Gardner, a cross-country skiing coach at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, and an avid racer, was happy to see some of the performances but also chagrined to suspect that others were drug-enhanced.

He believes there was clear evidence of drug use by some of the athletes.

“I really feel like there was doping. I’m sure there was, actually,” he said.

He said he hates to make such a statement about the Olympics, and doesn’t want to name names, but certain skiers were putting in dominating performances well above their recent levels of capability. Such improvement isn’t possible without resorting to doping, he said.

A number of others who were following the cross-country skiing felt the same way, said Gardner.

“It was both great and greatly disappointing,” Gardner said of his experience at the Olympics.

While he has high ambitions as a coach and skier, he has found himself pondering his sport and his future in it since he has returned to Carbondale.

But he doesn’t plan to give it up, and he is focusing not on cheaters but on performances of the Americans, and others such as bronze medalist Becky Scott of Canada, “the people I know to be clean.”

“It was nice to see a lot of these guys get their due because they work as hard as the Europeans do,” he said.

The Americans put in their best showing in 20 years, posing a threat to the leaders rather than being also-rans, he said.

Gardner arrived a week before the start of the Games. He had landed an assignment with Swix, a ski wax maker, through Rob Kiesel, a CRMS alumnus who is high up in the company and whose daughter, Kaelin, now attends the school.

Using the proper wax can be essential to a skier’s performance, so Gardner helped to determine what waxes were working best.

“Basically everybody’s trying to figure out what the fastest stuff is,” he said.

As the races began, he helped to advise wax technicians. During races, he also went out on the course with spare poles, in case a racer broke one.

“I never had to hand one off, fortunately,” he said.

Gardner, who had done wax testing before, but never at an Olympic level, was happy with the job he and others on the Swix team did.

“We had some winners on our wax, for sure,” he said. “We got a lot of good reviews, actually.”

Gardner got to meet a lot of the Norwegian skiers, “kind of the heroes of the sport,” he said. “That was cool.”

Their success hasn’t gone to their heads, he said.

“It’s a humble sport. It requires you to check your attitude. They’re great guys.”

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