Cool tricks at cold World Cup
Friday night. Saturday night – they were not for the weenies.
As the Chevrolet Freestyle International rolled into its final two evenings – after dealing with a snowstorm (but no raging winds, fortunately) Thursday night, the bottom seemed to fall out of the thermometer. It was generously listed as 8 degrees Friday night, but two independent readings listed it as -10 Saturday night.
Not for the weenies.
But they definitely were nights for the finest World Cup skiers in the world to perform on one of the finest stages in their sport. And they didn’t let down the thousands who came to watch.
Deer Valley came late to freestyle. The 2002 Olympics designated it as the freestyle venue for the Games and President – Field Marshall – Bob Wheaton’s troops began gearing up.
They held NorAms, they moved on to World Cups and then put on a gold-medal Olympics followed by a gold-medal World Championships in 2003. And they do it again every winter with a January World Cup weekend. This season, they added a fourth event, picking up an aerials meet Thursday night – the Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge from snow-starved Lake Placid.
After starting the weekend with a moguls sweep – Shannon Bahrke and Nate Roberts taking the bumps contests Thursday afternoon – and "Speedy" Peterson wowing Mom and the crowd by somehow landing his five-twist, three-somersault "Hurricane" jump in the storm to set two records with his victory that night, the beat continued Friday night.
A look back at some wild moments.
Friday night – Single-digit c-c-c-cold but, again, no winds. And, again, Speedy lights up the couple of thousand folks who made it to the foot of White Owl to catch the aerials show.
About 10 years ago, Parkite Wayne Hilterbrand – then U.S. freestyle head coach – said, "If Evelyne Leu ever learns how to land her [aerials] jumps, she could be an Olympic champion."
The Swiss Miss hasn’t steamrolled the jumping community, but she’s learned a bit about landings. She’s won seven World Cup events – five of ’em in North America – and last February she landed the Olympic gold medal. Friday night, the 2001 winner at Deer Valley won her second World Cup event at Wheatonville.
"This is great. I’m so happy," she said after winning, having finished fourth Thursday night behind former Park City summertime resident Jacqui Cooper, the Queen Kong of women’s aerials who used to train at Utah Olympic Park during preseasons leading to the ’02 Winter Games.
But the drama came down to: Could Speedy – the only U.S. aerialist in finals – do it again? Did he catch lightning (or a hurricane) in a bottle with his for-the-ages double-record jump Thursday night? Could he top his world-record overall score or beat his one-jump record score?
Peterson, sporting his YOUR LOGO HERE message on his helmet, was fourth in the aerials qualifying round. Canadian Steve Omischl, the defending World Cup champion and current leader, led things, so he would be the last to go in finals.
Peterson, his nose newly scraped from another training crash – he had two Thursday night, including one in which he broke his right hand, laid down another pearl of a jump, nailing his landing and taking the points lead. The most difficult jump in his sport – five twists, three flips – was becoming routine, if anything that difficult could be routine.
At the end, Omischl was the only guy who could catch him. Except he couldn’t catch him. The Canadian had a ragged landing and dropped to seventh overall. He stayed kneeling down in the outrun, looking back up the hill as if there would be some sign on what happened. Meanwhile, Peterson and the crowd were jubilant.
Not only did Peterson – who said he’d taken the summer off "to recharge my mental battery" after the disappointment of slapping back at the Olympics with his Hurricane and having the gold medal slip away – win his second meet in less than 24 hours, he also took the yellow leader’s bib from Omischl.
The winning score was 252.26 with Belarussian Anton Kushner second at 230.75.
"I’ve been working quite a bit on doing this trick. More than anything, it has to do with mileage; I just have to be able to come out, throw a bunch of them down," Peterson told reporters.
"I have to take the hits. I have to be able to get back up and go to the top and try it again. And that’s what I’ve been doing with my coaches…
"That’s all it is. All it has to do with is mileage…and like anything, being able to hit a 100 mph fastball, you’re not going to do it the first time. But as you do it more often, it starts to slow down a little bit so you’re able to kind of get some muscle memory into when to swing."
Perhaps aerials head coach Matt Christensen summarized it best: "It was amazing again. He hasn’t had the best training but he can be super human at times; Speedy’s just something special."
It was the fourth American victory of the weekend. And the last.
Saturday – dual moguls, the high-energy, side-by-side through-the-bumps event went to two foreigners, who each got the first win of his and her career. Kristi Richards of Canada upended Olympic and World Cup champion Jenn Heil with Vermonter Hannah Kearney getting her second – and the U.S. Ski Team’s sixth – top-3 of the weekend while Frenchman Guilbaut Colas won the men’s event with Park City’s Nate Roberts the top U.S. skier in sixth place.
Roberts was realistic: "I was just trying to give it my best and it just wasn’t my night. I never give up, but I came up a point short. But I expect more out of myself and it just didn’t happen."
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