Local skiers compete in Deer Valley

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— When the 2003 Freestyle World Championships open in Deer Valley today, more than a few eyes in Steamboat Springs will be glued to the television, watching the results on the Internet and cheering for a large number of athletes with ties to this small mountain community.

"I will be on the aerial hill shoveling snow (getting the Steamboat jumps in shape for next week's World Cup competition), but I'll be checking in and hopefully there will be a group of us who will get together and watch some of the events on NBC this weekend," freestyle coach Damon Wells said.

Several of the athletes competing in Deer Valley at the 2003 Freestyle World Championships have strong ties to this community, including Olympic silver medallist Travis Mayer, a 2000 graduate of the Lowell Whiteman School.

Other local names will include fellow Lowell Whiteman graduates Emiko Torito (2000) and Ryan St. Onge (2001).

"I really hope one of these kids does something really special," said Joe Roberts who teaches at the Lowell Whiteman school and serves as alumni director. "It's so nice for us when they do well, and it's fantastic for them."

U.S. Ski Team member Toby Dawson, who joined the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club earlier this winter, will join former Steamboat skier Mike Friedberg in this week's events. Friedberg trained in Steamboat for several years but now lives in Boulder.

Wells said he would also keep an eye on other skiers, like aerialists Jana Lindsey and Kelly Hilliman. Both of the athletes trained with the Winter Sports Club briefly before earning a position with the U.S. Ski Team.

"It's really fun to watch our alumni have this type of success," said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "They are great representatives of our club -- every one of them are neat young adults."

Wells said he wouldn't be surprised if at least one of the athletes steps onto the podium before the week is over. Mayer and Dawson have both enjoyed strong results this winter on the World Cup curcuit.

Mayer is second in the World Cup standings and Dawson is currently third.

"I know Travis and Toby were not happy with the way they skied in New York (at the last World Cup meet in Lake Placid), so I think they will be looking to turn things around this week," Wells said. "I know Travis really likes this course and that he is also excited to get back in the area."

Mayer told Wells he was looking forward to getting back to Steamboat after the championships are over -- and that he would like nothing more than to return home with a World Championship medal around his neck.

Deer Valley will be the second venue in the United States to host the freestyle World Championships. Lake Placid hosted the events in 1991 where the American team collected seven medals including three gold.

This year's World Championships will get under way with qualifying events for moguls today. The opening ceremonies and aerial qualifying will take place on Thursday.

The mogul finals will take place Friday. The dual moguls are slated for Saturday and the finals in the aerial events will take place under the lights Saturday night in Utah.

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