Salt Lake City 2002: Back In The Fast Lane

Erik Schlopy had to quit the U.S. ski team to become a better skier. Odd decision. Good choice

Austria is to alpine skiing what Switzerland is to money: small but powerful, and more than a match for the U.S., not to mention the rest of the schussing world. The Austrians have dominated skiing in recent years, whereas the last American man to win an Olympic Alpine gold was Tommy Moe in 1994. In general, U.S. downhillers have made the nation's soccer players look downright Brazilian.

If anyone can end that futility, it's Erik Schlopy, 29, a medal contender in the slalom and giant-slalom events, having just finished a World Cup season in which he placed third in the final...