Steamboat’s Outtrim rides emotions to Olympic berth
January 23, 2014
Steamboat Springs — As Steamboat Springs skier and 2003 Lowell Whiteman School graduate Eliza Outtrim sat around Sunday, she had resigned herself to the fact she wouldn't be going to the Olympics.
She'd justified it in her head, thought about what was next and figured the eight years she'd spent chasing the Olympic dream had just fallen short.
She was in a solemn mood but tried to put it in perspective.
"I was thinking about moving on and what my next step was going to be. I was planning on moving on," she said. "My sister is due to have a baby in a week. Sunday I was talking about booking a flight home. I told my parents 'this is something I can look forward to. I can see the family. It's OK.'"
Luckily for Outtrim, her knowledge of the selection process wasn't right. The 28-year-old figured the battle for the last couple of U.S. mogul team spots would be determined strictly on the last several World Cup starts.
She thought the first four criteria would be based on finishes. Instead, it was the first three, with the fourth-deciding factor being standings in the World Cup.
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By Monday, when she found this out, she re-did the math and knew she was alive for one of the discretionary slots.
"It's crazy to just think how things change in 24 hours," she said.
Outtrim found out Monday night that she was selected to the U.S. moguls Olympic team. The U.S. team made it official Tuesday, naming Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney, Vail skier Heidi Kloser, Heather McPhie and Outtrim to the team.
"The last few weeks have arguably been the hardest thing I've ever been through," Outtrim said. "It's been a lot harder than I expected it to be."
Maybe more than any other sport, the fight for the last few spots on the Olympic team came down to the very end.
With only nine spots available for aerials and moguls, it was unclear how those would be divided.
In women's moguls, it was a three-lady fight with McPhie, Outtrim and Sophia Schwartz all entangled in a battle.
After the final World Cup, the three were tied, having posted the same top-three results.
After struggling early, Outtrim earned fourth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the past three World Cups.
Knowing the spots were discretionary, Outtrim knew there still was a chance she wouldn't make the team.
"I was just hoping," Outtrim said.
She initially struggled in the first three World Cups of the season, not factoring in the Olympic conversation.
It reached a breaking point at a pair of World Cup stops in Deer Valley, Utah. After finishing 15th in the first one, she qualified 16th for the second one.
"I remember thinking this is slipping away from me," she said. "I was so frustrated. I was pissed at myself for the way I was skiing. There was no feeling in my run, and I was not skiing the way I could. In 16th place, I was first out of the gate. Doing that, my chances of making superfinals is super unlikely."
She did, though, and notched a fourth-place finish. She was sixth and seventh at the next two World Cups to put her in position.
"I didn't know I was capable of being this emotional," she said. "At the end, when I got fourth in Deer Valley, I knew I could do this."
Outtrim and her teammates will spend the next several days training in Steamboat in preparation for the Olympics.
She said after a hectic two weeks, during which she was taxed mentally as she never has been, it's been nice to just ski again.
Besides, after the past two weeks of ups and downs, there hasn't been much time to let the phrase "Eliza Outtrim: Olympian" set in.
"The hardest thing was making the Olympic team," she said. "They took two boys and four girls. This was a really hard Olympic team to make. I feel like I can breathe again.
"I'm looking forward to Sochi. I have nothing to lose. You don't go to the Olympics to get fourth. You go to get a medal. You ski as hard as you can, because no one else is going to do any different. That simplifies it for me."
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com
or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham
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