Mayer places fourth in World Cup opener

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— Travis Mayer opened up the World Cup season in Tignes, France, on Wednesday with a seventh-place finish.

Mayer was one of four American's finishing in the top 10 at the event, which Finland's Tapio Luusua won. World Cup champion Jeremy Bloom placed fourth; Nate Roberts placed sixth; Mayer came in seventh; and Toby Dawson placed ninth.

It was the first time the American team failed to finish on the podium of a World Cup event since Dec. 14, 2000, when the best American was 11th.

"We still had four guys in the top 10," head coach Jeff Wintersteen said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. "Now things will really heat up for the men. This was a wake-up call."

Luusua won the event with a score of 25.64. Japan's Yugo Tsukita finished second, at 25.63, and Finland's Sami Mustonen finished third, with a score of 25.44

Bloom, who won World Cup Titles in 2002 and 2005, led the American team in fourth, with a score of 25.19.

Other top American finishes included Toby Dawson in ninth, Luke Westerlund in 13th and David Babic in 49th.

Reigning moguls world champion Hannah Kearney, of Norwich, Vt., won the opening event of the women's season Wednesday leading five U.S. women into the top 10. She scored 25.75 to edge Canadian skier Jennifer Heil, who finished in second at 25.37, and Sweden's Sara Kjellin who finished third with a score of 24.27.

Denver's Michelle Roark placed fifth; Jillian Vogtli of New York was eighth; Laurel Shanley of California was ninth; and former Steamboat Springs skier Emiko Torito, who graduated from the Lowell Whiteman School in 2000, placed 10th.

The American team will travel to Oberstdorf, Germany, on Sunday for the final World Cup event of the month. The U.S. team will return home after the holidays for competitions in Tremblant, Quebec, on Jan. 7 and 8, Deer Valley, Utah, on Jan. 13 and 14, and Lake Placid, N.Y., from Jan. 20 to 22.

The U.S. Ski Team also will make a stop in Steamboat Springs on Dec. 30 for the U.S. freestyle team's Olympic Trials. The top finishers in the mogul and aerial events will earn an automatic berth to the Olympic Games in Italy in February.

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboat pilot.com

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