Living legend

Nelson Carmichael takes his place in Colorado skiing history

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Olympic silver medalist Travis Mayer was influenced by skiing legend Nelson Carmichael through the magic of television.

As a youngster, Mayer watched the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France, on his family's TV set. After watching Carmichael win a bronze medal, Mayer realized that mogul skiing was the sport he wanted to pursue.

"He was the first really good American mogul skier," Mayer said. "We all watched him in Albertville. He brought legitimacy to our sport, he showed us the potential of mogul skiing, and he did it all with a lot of class."

Carmichael was honored for his storied skiing career when he was inducted Saturday into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Denver.

It's an honor the Steamboat Springs skier never dreamed of as he pursued the often-overlooked sport of freestyle skiing while growing up in Steamboat Springs during the sports infancy.

"I never expected this," Carmichael said about being inducted. "I think the hall has always recognized alpine and older, more traditional sports. But it's nice

to see the newer sports getting honored. It's great for the sport, and it's great to get into the Skiing Hall of Fame."

Although Carmichael always will be remembered for winning the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic games, the skier leaves behind a legacy that inspired a generation.

Carmichael won World Cup titles in 1988 and 1989. He also won several national mogul titles.

Carmichael participated in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, where freestyle skiing was a demonstration sport. He finished 10th. Four years later, he found himself on the third-place podium in Albertville.

Carmichael's former coaches describe his skiing style as smooth and efficient. He was one of the skiers to perfect the 360-degree helicopter, and he set the standard for many of today's best mogul skiers.

"I think, at times, he was too smooth for his own good," former coach Park Smalley said. "He made it look too easy, so he didn't get the scores he should have from the judges."

During it all, Carmichael never seemed to lose sight of who he was or what was important. He said he never worried about World Cup titles or Olympic medals. Instead, he focused on learning the next big trick or improving his technique in the bumps.

Jeff Good, who was named U.S. mogul coach just before the 1992 Winter Olympics, cites Carmichael's bronze medal performance as a highlight of his career -- but he doesn't take any of the credit for it.

"I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity to work with an athlete like Nelson Carmichael," Good said. "But I think I learned far more from him than he learned from me."

Other people inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame during Saturday's gala were Stein Eriksen, Tage Pedersen, John Stevens and Sarah Will.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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