Gold Cup last chance for Olympic hopefuls

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— Making it to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah is a goal of all 30 athletes who will compete in next week's Gold Cup at Howelsen Hill.

While a few of them have already punched their tickets to the big show with top World Cup results this season, for the vast majority of the field at the Dec. 19 events, the Gold Cup berth is the only real chance.

The winner of the special jumping and Nordic Combined events will earn a guaranteed spot in the Olympic lineup and a check for $10,000.

But to make the cut, the special jumping and Nordic Combined skiers will have to win it all and in the process beat the top U.S. Ski Team members.

The field was determined last weekend in Park City at the last of six Gold Cup tryout events.

In the final event, the U.S. Ski Team members dominated the field in a special jumping event on the Olympic K-120 hill.

Clint Jones topped the competition by scoring 242.8 points. It was just enough to slip past Alan Alborn, who completed the competition with 242.4 points.

Both of those skiers, along with U.S. Team member Brendan Doran, are already qualified to compete in next week's Gold Cup event at Howelsen Hill.

Among the non-team members at the event, Tommy Schwall led the pack. He finished third with 159.9 points. Casey Colby was fourth (155.4) and Brian Welch was fifth (151.5).

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Chris Gilbertson said the list of skiers is still unofficial but Steamboat's Schwall and Logan Gerber had qualified to compete in the Gold Cup special jumping event. The rest of the field will include Tim Nelson, Colby, Welch, Jim Denney, Andre Johnson, Jeff Denney, Chris Francis and Taylor Hoffman.

Schwall won the opening two events in Steamboat Dec. 1 and 2 (placing second to a Canadian in the first competition). He also placed second last weekend in a competition on the K-90 hill in Park City. Colby, an Eastern division skier, won the event on the smaller hill.

There was also a Nordic Combined event in Park City last weekend. Wesley Harris of Canada won that competition. The top American was Geoff Howe, a development skier for the U.S. Team. Brett Camerota was third and Steamboat's Bryan Fletcher came in fifth. U.S. Ski Team members Alex Glueck (who won the opening event in Steamboat) was ninth and Adam Schwall, who missed the opening event in Steamboat, was 10th.

Gilbertson said all seven members of the U.S. Team would compete in the Steamboat Gold Cup. That will include Todd Lodwick, Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane, Kristoffer Erichsen, Jed Hinkley, Matt Dayton and Nathan Gerhart. Other local skiers who earned a shot will be Fletcher, Alex Glueck and Ethan Johnson. Geoff Howe, Brett Camerota, Eric Camerota, Morgan Goodwin, Brendan Nicholson, Trey Oxford and Willy Graves. None of those skiers is part of the Winter Sports Club.

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