Aksel Svindal Lund, the Norwegian who matched Bode Miller’s “trifecta” is probably the only other male Alpine skier (or Norwegian for that matter) that most people will remember from last month’s Winter Olympics. But a Norwegian with a much less memorable trip to Vancouver has finally earned his spotlight. Yesterday was “Day 1″ at the 2010 NCAA Skiing Championships held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and another son of Norway made it his day by earning a little bit of hardware of his own.
After laying down two blistering runs in the Giant Slalom, in what most experts would consider very difficult conditions, Leif Haugen (22) put on a performance that you would not have expected from a guy who finished 28th in Olympic Giant Slalom and didn’t even post a time in the Slalom. Haugen, who is a member of the two-time defending National Champion Denver University, gave his team the exact start they needed if they are looking to “Three-peat”, but it wasn’t without a little Olympic inspiration from his fellow countrymen.
He told NCAA.com,
“I was up in Whistler and was a little bummed. I didn’t do what I hoped for…I was just telling myself and all those around, next time I’m going to be on that podium. It’s really inspirational to ski with a group like Aksel Svindal and Ansrud Kjetil and all those guys. They won four medals. To feed off their results and their motivation…I really wanted this win. That was something I didn’t have.”"
The 6’1″ sophomore could probably pass as a distant relative of Shaun White before he’d pass as your prototypical Norwegian, but all that red hair couldn’t slow down Haugen’s path to redemption and now gold is something he “does have”. As a freshman in last year’s NCAA’s, Leif earned first-team All-American honors after his 3rd place result in the Giant Slalom and a 2nd in the Slalom. He’s taken his first win of these championships and he’s in good company with the D.U. men’s team, as they are the leaders after the first day. University of Utah trail Denver by 42.5 points after one of their femal athletes won the Women’s Giant Slalom. Behind them is Vermont, New Mexico, and Dourtmouth. In 6th place is C.U. Boulder, who are playing host to this years NCAA’s.
The men’s slalom is on Friday so we will have to wait and see if the “speeding tomato” (just made that up… extremely original) can make it a perfect 2 for 2 and help Denver to another NCAA alpine title.
Haugen Image from Den