U.S. makes most of moguls
Nate Roberts didn’t have go out and win the moguls competition at the Chevrolet Freestyle International World Cup at Deer Valley on Thursday to win the love of his family, friends and numerous fans in his hometown of Park City, but it made his favorite stop on the tour that much sweeter.
"This is awesome," Roberts said. "This is almost like a dream come true for me."
After a somewhat frustrating season last year, where he failed to make the Olympic freestyle team, Roberts has rebounded quickly with a fifth-place finish last week in Mont Gabriel, Quebec, Canada and his storybook finish on Deer Valley’s Champion run this weekend.
Roberts came into Thursday’s finals in a respectable ninth place, but still far from the top of the pack. Then, amidst constant snow flurries, the 24-year-old Park City High School grad stormed the course, cruising over the bumps and flying off the jumps to move into first place with a score of 26.03. He said that the course was tough and the pressure of being a local was weighing down on him a bit, but his performance held throughout the remainder of the competition and the hometown sweetheart accepted gold among the throng of fans cheering and holding their, "Go Nate," signs.
Close behind was France’s Gregoire Dufosse with 25.43 and Japan’s Osamu Ueno with 24.96. American David Babic lit up the course with a blazing 23.51 second race time that appeared to have earned him a spot on the podium until a scoring error revealed that he finished in fourth place.
"You’re always hoping to be on the box, but I’m pleased with my skiing today," Babic said.
It was truly a weekend for the Americans as Salt Lake-based Shannon Bahrke captured her second World Cup victory of the season with a score of 25.15.
"Today, I knew that everyone was skiing well," Bahrke said. "My skiing went well, so I was really happy."
Bahrke’s return to glory, after being the World Cup champion in 2003, has been a poignant one after breaking her jaw in 2004 and blowing out her right knee in 2005.
"The last few years have been hard for me," the Tahoe City, Calif. native admitted. "Now I’m skiing the way I want to ski. Hopefully that will continue."
Close behind was fellow Yankee Hannah Kearney in third with a 24.86 final score. Reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Heil of Canada took second with 24.86.
"I was really happy to have a solid performance," said Heil, who last week finished far down the field in Quebec after a bobble on her final run.
Kearney was pleased with her podium finish, but lamented not completing tricks as she had wanted.
"My run today was not exactly what I had planned on," Kearney said. "That’s what gives you motivation for next time."
In both fields, the first- and second-place finishers were just hundredths of seconds away from one another making the fight to land jumps and hit the bumps hard quite fierce.
"There’s amazing competition out here," Heil said.
The women complained of limited visibility and soft snow, but did their best to battle the elements. Kearney joked that it was not a problem since she closed her eyes while sailing off of the jumps.
The team is under the direction of new head coach Scott Rawles, who Roberts said is making a big difference in the Americans consistent performances.
"They are there for the athletes," Roberts said.
Rawles said the heart of his team and ability to rebound well is also helping results.
"They stepped up and put the heat on the rest of the field," Rawles said.
Also, a new group of rookies has increased the intensity to perform.
"We’re rebuilding," Rawles said. "When you have great athletes, this is what happens."
The Deer Valley event is only the second freestyle World Cup tour stop thus far this year due to lack of snow around the world. Two moguls events in France were cancelled in December and the World Championships in Italy have been postponed. The aerials competition, slated to be held in Lake Placid next week, was moved to Deer Valley on Thursday and a decision on the status of moguls was scheduled to be made Friday.
The Americans return to the moguls course on Saturday evening for the dual moguls event, beginning at 6 p.m., followed by a concert by The Wailers and fireworks. All events are free to the public.
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