Steamboat Springs It was the calm before the swarm.
Loveland's Jeremy Bloom took his spot on the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team Trials podium Friday and smiled for the crowd. When he stepped down, TV cameramen and other members of the media crowded around the 5-foot-9 moguls skier turned Colorado Buffaloes football player turned moguls skier.
Bloom is headed back to the Olympics for the second time, and this trip may be his golden ticket.
"I'm very happy to make the Olympic team," said Bloom, whose cheering section included fans waving CU banners and his No. 15 college football jersey.
"I really was able to accomplish everything I wanted. I needed to increase my speed. I needed better angles to increase my turn scores."
It may have been Bloom's speed on the moguls that enabled him to hold off Steamboat's Travis Mayer. After an unimpressive qualifying run on Voo Doo ski run, Bloom was forced to ski third in the finals.
It didn't matter. Bloom put down a huge run, landing a 720-Heli X and an off-axis 720 to score 27.82 out of 30 points. The best score of the afternoon put the pressure on the nine men who skied after him.
Several fell going for broke in an effort to beat Bloom. Mayer, a 2002 Olympic silver medalist, accepted Bloom's challenge, landing a D-spin 720 on his top air and a huge upright 720 on the bottom air. Mayer came up just short, scoring 27.57. Vail's Toby Dawson finished third with 26.84.
"I was really pleased with how I skied," Mayer said. "You can't control what others do."
U.S. Freestyle Coach Jeff Wintersteen said the huge crowd that lined both sides of Friday's mogul course saw two amazing runs from Bloom and Mayer.
"His and T-Mayer's are gold and silver in Torino," said Wintersteen, predicting final results if the Olympics were Friday.
The only thing Mayer said he could have improved was his speed. He will have time to do so. With one World Cup podium this season, Mayer is in good position to make the Olympic team when its remaining members are announced Jan. 25, Wintersteen said.
One thing is for sure -- Mayer isn't envious of the coaches who have to make the final selections. They will be picking from the deepest field in history, as shown by the speed and tricks displayed Friday.
"Expectations (for this team) are sky high," Wintersteen said.
Bloom, Mayer, Dawson, Luke Westerlund, Nate Rob--erts and David Babic grew up competing together for the most part, Mayer said. Since they were young, the group has exhibited star potential.
"It's an honor to be able to train with them," Bloom said about his teammates. "We are all friends. There aren't a lot of egos on this team."
And when all is said and done, there may be a lot more Olympic hardware than Mayer's silver medal.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org