At last Wednesday's opening press conference for the Visa Freestyle International, athletes were unified in talking about the advantage they have on their home course at Deer Valley Resort. And over the three nights of competition, it showed: eight of 18 possible podiums went to the USA. Meanwhile, at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort, eight of 12 top three-spots went to America.
There's something about competing at home, in front of friendly fans, on courses you know and at resorts that welcome you. At the same time, events like that are fraught with distractions for athletes not to mention that every athlete in the world is totally gunning for you!
Home snow meant a career-first podium for Bradley Wilson on the mountain where he grew up skiing with Wasatch Freestyle. In a gutsy performance in Saturday's dual moguls an event where intense speed has taken center stage Wilson simply performed. Going up against the king himself Mikael Kingsbury of Canada Wilson rose to the occasion, notching up an extra gear to knock Kingsbury off the podium for the first time in 19 events.
Teen Mike Rossi came in with no expectations. Last month he had nailed top 15s in China and Canada, plus a ninth in Lake Placid. A New Jersey native, Rossi came to a camp at the Utah Olympic Park some years ago and was recruited by FLY Freestyle. Competing for the first time in his adopted home meant friends and family from around the USA getting an excuse to visit Park City for the weekend. Rossi, though, put on a show carefully strategizing his way through the new Olympic format, finding himself in the superfinals, and next thing he knew, Scotty Bahrke and company were hoisting him on their shoulders for the ride to the podium. Sweet!
It's only been 13 seasons since Deer Valley Resort started its run on the FIS Freestyle World Cup in 2000. Since then it has become the most highly prized site on tour for its athletically challenging courses and warm hospitality to athletes. Every single freestyle athlete in the world wants to win here! Frankly, though, if you're not a U.S. moguls skier, you have to wonder why you would like DV. Of 36 moguls and dual-moguls World Cups at Deer Valley, U.S. skiers have won 14. Only six times in those 36 events has there been no American on the podium.
The USA dominates at DV!
With her two wins this past weekend, no one has won more at Deer Valley than Hannah Kearney man or woman! Her fifth win eclipsed the mark of four held by Canadian rival Jenn Heil.
At ski events around the world, there are few experiences like standing at the bottom under the lights of Deer Valley with 10,000 strong cheering on the titans of the air. It's an atmosphere that reminds the young athletes on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team that freestyle skiing is our sport. It began here and it still reigns supreme.
Heather McPhie who won a trip to Vancouver with her first career win at Deer Valley in January 2010 said it best as she wound down after Thursday night's women's sweep. "It's funny," she laughed. "Eliza, Hannah and I were walking into the Center of Excellence yesterday and were talking about how great it would be for us all to get a podium here at Deer Valley. I didn't think it would happen all at once! It's unbelievable."
No, Heather. It's very believable!