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Deer Valley hosts high flyers

Paul Robbins Special to the Record

Full moon. Friday the 13th. And some 8,000 people yipping for joy under the lights on Deer Valley’s Champion run. Lead on, McDuff.

It all turned out to be a perfect stage Friday night for Toby "Awesome" Dawson and Michelle Roark to pickup their tickets to the Olympics next month in Torino, Italy.

No problem with jinxes, hexes, bad luck or anything on the dark side. Dawson and Roark won the moguls event, the middle event of the three-competition Chevrolet Freestyle International. Aerials Friday afternoon — with Ryan St. Onge and Park City’s Joe Pack going 1-2 to start the three wins in four contests on Friday the 13th for jinx-proof U.S. skiers – and Saturday night were the bookends for the World Cup visit.

Qualifications for moguls were Thursday and the finals were Friday night. Dawson, having led the qualis, skied last and laid down a sizzling run that was worth 27.34 points. Finn Janne Lahtela, who took the Olympic gold on Champion in 2002, was runnerup (26.48) with Travis Cabral the next American, finishing fifth (26.08) with Parkite Nate Roberts sixth (25.98).

"The problem with these two-day events is you have to get ready, compete, then take some time off, get all ready again and then compete again on the second day. It takes my body a long time to get warmed up.

"Having to go last, I was sitting in the starting gate, just listening to times and scores, times and scores. ‘Gosh, how am I gonna do this?’ I was getting a little nervous," he said, "and I wanted to ski it as quickly as possible down the middle. And it all came together."

He further tickled the crowd when he crossed the finish line and turned around, skiing backwards to look up the course. However, he skied backwards too far and flipped over the padded fencing, dumping himself at the feet of the judges’ stand.

"I was face-to-face with the judges," he laughed. Perhaps that clinched his high score? "I was embarrassed, he said, but I got a great score and won, so what can you do?"

His jumps were a 720-mute (two rotations, grabbing a ski in midair) and a cork-720 (off-axis, double spin) on the bottom.

He told a post-comp press conference at Snow Park that he’d put too much pressure on himself four years ago to make the Olympic Team. This time, having won five more World Cups, he was perhaps better equipped to handle his self-imposed pressure.

"I wanted it really bad and I kept pushing myself to the point where I was making mistakes," he said. "This year, I’ve taken my time."

Roark made certain everyone at the press conference knew she had a new perfume line (Phinomenal – http://www.phinomenal.com – "it’s meant to invoke confidence, energy and focus, and I have it all over me tonight," she laughed). She told of how she had dreamed since she was a tyke (and at 5-foot, 105 she’s not much above that size even now, at 31) of being a chemical engineer and competing in the Olympics.

She clicked up top with a backflip and her bottom jump was a "Bronco," a 360-degree rotation with a spread while backwards in the air. "I love to spin. I think it comes from my figure-skating background," she said.

Her feelings about achieving part of her Olympic dream were "hard to express," she said. "I’ve wanted to do it since I was 5, and it’s been a really, really bumpy road – six knee surgeries, a rollercoaster ride…

"I stuck with it for the ultimate goal. I can say it now — for a long time we weren’t allowed to say the O-word in my household, but I can say it now. I’m going to Olympics," she beamed.

Friday afternoon, St. Onge – calling DV "a marquee event" for the Americans – earned his fourth World Cup victory, a pleasant about-face from a week earlier in Quebec when he was 20th at Mont Gabriel, outside Montreal. The comfort one which Deer Valley provides for U.S. aerialists helped him turn things around in a hurry, he said.

"Each week is completely different. Last week, it took me three days to get used to the jump hill and this week it took me about one-and-a-half jumps," St. Onge said.

He nailed on two quad-twisting triples (four twists, three flips) — a full, double-full, full and a double-full, full, full — for 243.59 points. Pack, whose jumps were a full, double-full, full and a triple-twisting, triple (three twists, three somersaults), a double-full, full – finished second at 241.49 with Jeret "Speedy" Peterson 11th.

Pack praised conditions as "perfect" also praised DV and the crowds at what he says is the best competition – "no comparison, anywhere," he said — on the schedule each year. "It doesn’t get any better," according to Pack.

The women’s winner Friday was a bit of a stunner, Australian Lydia Ierodiaconou (Italian mom, Cypriot dad, they met and married in Australia), who had torn ligaments in her left knee last July. Doctors repaired the knee, using an Achilles tendon ("I ski dead people," she smirked), and Deer Valley was her first event of the season.

She had 196.51 points with Jana Lindsey producing the best U.S. result in 10th place.

Saturday night, both events were held to one round of jumping because of gusting winds. Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus won the men’s event with 130.53 points with Pack sixth and Peterson eighth in the blowing conditions.

Pack spoke for everyone: "It was a long day. The wind is our nemesis," Pack said. "You don’t want to see anyone else go to the hospital, so we were playing it safe…but we also got it done for Deer Valley and all they’ve meant to the U.S. team and our sport."

Next stop: the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup this weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., with two moguls events and an aerials comp. The Olympic Freestyle Team will be announced with a fanfare Jan. 25 at Deer Valley.


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