Freestylists get ticket to Turin
It seemed fitting to hold the official announcement of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Ski Team on the deck of the Snow Park Lodge on a sunny day with a perfect view of the freestyle moguls and aerial venues from the 2002 Olympics in clear view. After all, it was here that hometown favorite Joe Pack captured a silver medal and the world embraced the world’s best high flyers on snow.
Although most of the moguls team was away at World Cup competitions in Europe, a sizable number of aerialists and moguls skier Jillian Vogtli were on hand to graciously accept their nominations to the team and give the audience a taste of what they hope to accomplish in Turin.
Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) officially named eight men and six men to the Olympic team. Among them, are stories of perseverance and dominance, and seven who had made the trip to the big show before.
The youngsters Jana Lindsey, a 21-year-old aerialist and South Dakota native who spent the last Olympics as a forerunner, but is looking forward to finally displaying her talents in Turin. Hannah Kearney, 19, the 2005 moguls world champion. Mogulist Travis Cabral of South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and Ryan St. Onge of Steamboat Springs, who will turn 23 just as the Games are beginning.
The middle-aged crowd — Spunky 2002 moguls silver medallist Shannon Bahrke, 25, of Tahoe City, Calif., who has become a popular personality around Park City and Salt Lake. Travis Mayer, 23, of Steamboat Springs. Freestyle poster boy and reigning 2005 World Cup champion Jeremy Bloom, 23, who has high hopes of winning the gold in moguls and then heading straight from the hill in Turin to NFL combines to prepare for the upcoming draft. (After being snubbed by the NCAA to play football at University of Colorado because of ski sponsorship he hopes to make a statement by making it to the next level as a kick returner.) Aerialist Emily Cook, 26, of Belmont, Mass. who broke her foot in heartbreaking fashion just before the 2002 Games. And Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, of Boise, Idaho, 2005 Aerials World Cup champion, who brings both an edgy flavor and a five-twist maneuver to the hill.
And the veteran crew — Mogulist Toby Dawson. 27, of Vail, Colo., who qualified at the Deer Valley World Cup two weeks ago. Park City product aerialist Joe Pack, 27. Michelle Roark, 31, of Denver, Colo., who after numerous knee surgeries and immense personal sacrifice finally willed her tiny five-foot frame to the top of the last two World Cup podiums and grabbed that elusive Olympic berth. Jillian Vogtli, 32, of Ellicotville, N.Y. a 2002 Olympic, who dug in at Lake Placid last week to seal her spot on the Olympic moguls team. And finally Eric Bergoust, 36, of Missoula, Mont. a veteran in the true sense as he heads to his fourth Olympic Games.
The athletes are setting their sets high. St. Onge is hoping to finally get five twists into his jump. After a season full of frustration and four twists, he reports he is finally twisting fast enough that he might be able to add a fifth one be for Turin,
"I’ve definitely jumped with a different philosophy. For me it’s ‘go bigger or go home,’" St. Onge said.
Bergoust and Pack are both looking to peak at the Games. Pack says that he tends to perform better when the stakes are highest. Bergoust, who won gold in Nagano in 1998, says that in 2002 he peaked at the wrong time and didn’t do his best at the Games, but reports that everything seems to be on schedule this year.
"I’m focused on trying to peak in February," Bergoust said.
Peterson, the "Lord of the Fives," has the degree of difficulty already dialed into his jumps, but wants to make sure he stays mentally hungry.
"I feel confident going into these Games and I’m looking forward to the competition," Peterson said.
He says that he is also much stronger for Turin than he was in Salt Lake in 2002.
Vogtli calls herself more of a pressure performance and hopes that the enormity of the venue will spur on her best performer. She had just returned from knee reconstruction in the last Olympics and hopes to make this "go around" a memorable one.
And Cook, well, she’s just happy to be healthy. Making the Games and staying in one piece has been a dream that was a long-time coming.
"I’m so excited, I can’t explain it," Cook said.
As for the quality of the team Marolt called the group one the best the U.S. has sent. They are a self-confident crowd that will likely bring plenty of hardware home.
"If we sweep the podium," St. Onge said. "I don’t mind getting second or third to these guys."
The 2006 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Team (age, hometown, previous Olympics): MOGULS MEN Jeremy Bloom, 23, Loveland, Colo. (2002 Olympics) Travis Cabral, 22, South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Toby Dawson, 27, Vail, Colo. Travis Mayer, 23, Steamboat Springs, Colo. (2002 Olympics – moguls silver medallist) WOMEN Shannon Bahrke, 25, Tahoe City, Calif. (2002 Olympics – moguls silver medallist) Hannah Kearney, 19, Norwich, Vt. (2005 moguls world champion) Michelle Roark, 31, Denver Jillian Vogtli, 32, Ellicotville, N.Y. (2002) AERIALS MEN Eric Bergoust, 36, Missoula, Mont (1994, ’98, 2002 – ’98 aerials champion) Joe Pack, 27, Park City, Utah (2002 – aerials silver medallist) Jeret Peterson, 24, Boise, Idaho (2002) Ryan St. Onge, 22 (23 on Feb. 7), Steamboat Springs, Colo. WOMEN Emily Cook, 26, Belmont, Mass. Jana Lindsey, 21, Black Hawk, S.D.
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