Dawson makes decision to call it quits
Look out Tiger, here comes Toby. Maybe.
Olympics medal-winner Toby Dawson — the South Korea-born, crowd-pleasing moguls skier from Vail who generated some of his most bumps-running electricity at Deer Valley — has retired. He says he’d like to take a run at professional golf, although he quickly added, "but we’ll see."
He and his fiance, Leah — who plan to marry next April 14 — have bought a home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he can practice more often than Vail might offer. "I’ll be playing all winter. I’m starting to get into major pro-ams, and playing in some celebrity tour events, so…
"If I play all winter, and keep playing — you definitely need to keep it flowing, need to be hands-on and be in the trenches, we’ll see. I played when I was a kid, then two years ago I got some Cleveland clubs because they’re owned by Rossignol, my ski company. I hacked around that summer and then last summer I got more serious."
Dawson, 27, originally planned to sit out this World Cup and World Championships season where he’s the reigning dual moguls world champion; he wanted to let his mind and body heal from the slings and arrows, paper-cuts and dings of the Olympic buildup, and then grabbing that Olympic moguls bronze in Torino last February. That kept alive a string of U.S. skiers medalling in moguls ever since the event was added to the Olympics in 1992.
As things have gotten stoked up for golf, the fire’s gone out for competitive skiing. "Y’know, I don’t have it any more. ‘It’ isn’t there any more," he said in a phone interview. If he were to continue until the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, he’d be 31.
"I don’t know, but I think that’d be pushing it. This just seems like the right time to move on."
Head Coach Jeff Wintersteen said, "Golf is certainly a lot easier on his body" as he extended the Ski Team’s best wishes. Moguls Head Coach Donnie St. Pierre added, "Toby liked to wow the crowd, and he usually did. We’ll miss his enthusiasm and his talent; he was a great teammate."
Dawson was adopted by two ski instructors in Vail when he was three, and he was skiing that next winter. He made his World Cup during the 1999 season, finishing fifth in moguls on an icy, overcast course at Mont Tremblant, 90 minutes west of Montreal. He was a stunning fifth.
Those were pre-off-axis and aerials days when skiers had to keep their feet below their head in their jumps. He had a look on his face, at the bottom of his second run that seemed to say, "Did I just do what I thought I could do? Fifth?" Welcome to the Big Leagues, kid.
From there, Dawson would become a fan favorite, eager and energetic, zero sense of entitlement or aloofness. "I love to ski and I love to give the crowd a good show," he explained more than once.
And while the Olympic bronze medal was a fitting way to end his career, and it went nicely with that gold medal in duals that Dawson won at the 2005 World Championships in Ruka, Finland, he produced some of his biggest moments at Deer Valley.
After missing the 2002 Olympic Team, he stormed back in 2003 during the World Championships at DV. He earned the bronze medal in moguls (behind Finland’s Janne Lahtela, another crowd pleaser and, at that point, the reigning Olympic king) and bronze in duals (behind teammate Jeremy Bloom).
At the post-duals press conference, someone asked if he was disappointed with his two bronzes. Dawson, relentlessly upbeat, didn’t blink and didn’t miss a beat as he smiled and issued a comment that probably should be carved in granite somewhere: "Y’know, when I go home and go in my closet and close the door, they’ll look like gold medals."
Last January he buried his ’02 Olympic disappointment, clinching an Olympic berth as he and Michelle Roark – in an astounding Friday the 13th nighttime duet – won the moguls contest at the Chevrolet Freestyle World Cup. "I love Deer Valley," he said with a grin that was at least Korea-size.
"Deer Valley is a special place in every freestyler’s heart because it’s so well-run," he said a couple of days ago. "They have the best volunteers of any place, it’s the backyard of the Ski Team, and they show how a freestyle competition should be held.
"It’s one of the most challenging courses, but the crowds are great and it’s such a great stage. How could you not push yourself to do well at Deer Valley? Really, it’s special."
Kinda like Toby Dawson, who’s now a civilian charting a potential run at a pro golf career. Look out, Tiger.
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