ERZURUM, Turkey - University of Colorado head skiing coach Richard Rokos and the team from the United States wrapped up one of the most successful overseas world level competition Sunday at the 25th World University Games, held here the past week and a half.
The United States won four gold medals and one silver medal in eight total races. The men's and women's alpine teams comprised all of the gold medals and all but one medal overall for the United States in these Games, a total of 22 sports and 188 total medals awarded.
"This is the most decorated American group of skiers we've ever had representing the Unites States at these games," Rokos said. "We exceeded all our goals due to hard work and we closed some boundaries on the international level. I could not be prouder of what was accomplished here against some very tough competition."
The United States won the most gold medals (four), the most medals (five) and had the most top 5 (nine) and top 10 (18) finishes in the eight races. In his previous seven trips as the head coach of the United States at World University Games dating back to 1997, Rokos' teams had previously combined for three gold and four silver medals, meaning this group more than doubled the gold medal count in these games alone.
The Buffaloes sent seven skiers along with Rokos to the World University Games, and he coached four of them skiing for the United States. Freshman Kirsten Cooper, sophomore Erika Ghent and senior Katie Hartman comprised half of the women's alpine team for the United States. On the men's side, junior Taggart Spenst was a late addition to the U.S. team.
"This was a uniform effort between rivals from colleges that thrive on competing against each other," Rokos said. "They'll go home and represent their respective teams, but here they were united in force. Most of the competition here is World Cup level. Most countries aren't made up of full-time students; the U.S. is one of the few countries that is."
The Buffs also had senior Gabriel Rivas skiing for France while sophomore Sara Hjertman and senior Carolina Nordh both skied for the Sweden women's squad.
Also skiing for Team USA on the women's side were Lindsay Cone, Jennie VanWagner and Sterling Grant. Joining Spenst on the men's team were Grant Jampolsky and Seppi Steigler from the University of Denver, Ace Tarberry from Dartmouth and Jeremy Elliot and Tague Thorson from Utah.
Hartman got things off on the right foot for the United States by winning the first race out, the Super G, last Sunday. Unfortunately, she then hurt her knee in the next race and will miss the remainder of the season for the Buffaloes. Ghent got a silver for the U.S. in the Super Combined race. The Denver Pioneer skiers then took golds in three of the final four races with Jennie VanWagner winning the giant slalom race Sterling Grant the women's slalom and Seppi Stiegler the men's slalom to end the competition.
Ghent had perhaps the best performance for the Buffs and the United States with four top nine finishes. She took fourth in the Super G, just missing the podium before taking a silver medal in the Super Combined and she finished the week with matching ninth place finishes in both the giant slalom and slalom races.
Cooper opened the week with a 16th place in the Super G race and then after not finishing the Super Combined, she took 10th in the giant slalom race and did not finish the slalom race. Nordh took 39th in the Super G, did not finish the Super Combined, had an impressive fifth in the giant slalom and was 12th in the slalom race. Hjertman rounded out the CU women with an 11th place finish in the slalom, 26th in the giant slalom after not finishing both the Super G and Super Combined races.
On the men's side, Spenst took 18th in the Super G race and 23rd in the Super Combined before not finishing the giant slalom or slalom races. Rivas took 17th in the Super Combined and did not finish the Super G, giant slalom or slalom races.
Rokos and the Buffs, as well as the 21 other skiers from the RMISA participating in the games, will continue action next week at the Denver Invitational, set to begin Thursday in Winter Park.