Former Winter Sports Club skiers aim for Olympics

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— When the best aerialists in the world take to the freestyle jumps in Sauze d'Oulx in Italy this February, several skiers with ties to Steamboat Springs could be among them.

Ryan St. Onge, a Lowell Whiteman School graduate, and Jana Lindsay are former members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. They are members of the U.S. Ski Team and are in contention for spots on the 2006 Olympic team.

"I'm definitely focused on making the Olympic team this season," said Lindsay, who was a forerunner -- an honor given to up-and-comers -- at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. "That's what I've been working for, and I'm excited for this winter."

St. Onge attended the Lowell Whiteman School from 2001 to 2003, and he has climbed the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team since his departure.

In September, he won a World Cup competition at Mount Buller in Australia and is riding a wave of confidence as he heads toward a possible Olympics berth.

"It's going to be a challenge to make the Olympic team but winning a World Cup helps take some of the pressure off," St. Onge said.

St. Onge is one of several top American jumpers competing for spots on the team. Eric Bergoust, Joe Pack and Jeret Peterson are also contenders for the limited number of spots.

But earning an Olympic team berth is something that many of St. Onge's former coaches have predicted of their pupil.

"I coached him on and off when he was attending Whiteman," said Damian Wells, a longtime Steamboat freestyle coach. "He was always very coachable. You would tell him something, and then he would go out and do it."

But, Wells said, the thing that set St. Onge apart from other athletes is his ability to observe the things around him and figure out how they can work for him.

Wells said it helped that the talented skier grew up in Winter Park and seemed destined to end up on the U.S. Ski Team even before he arrived in Steamboat.

Wells said he is rooting for all of his former skiers as they make bids for this year's Olympic team.

"It might be a little selfish of me, but I'm going to be pulling for all of them to make it," Wells said.

Thanks to Lindsay and teammate Kelly Hilliman, who also trained with the Winter Sports Club for several years, Wells could be cheering for several skiers in Italy this winter.

Hilliman was ninth in the opening weekend of World Cup competition, and Lindsay finished 15th.

For Lindsay, the journey to make the Olympic team has required significant commitment.

While living in South Dakota with her family, she often commuted to Steamboat to train and compete with the Winter Sports Club.

Wells said Lindsay had a strong background in gymnastics when he met her, and the young skier just needed more time on snow.

Lindsay said she has wanted to be an aerialist since watching the 1988 Winter Olympic Games on TV.

"I told my mom that I wanted to do that," she said.

Sixteen years later, she is poised to take the stage in Italy for her first Olympics appearance.

"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Steamboat Springs for the Olympic qualifiers," Lindsay said. "I've trained on that hill, and knowing Steamboat, I'm sure there is going to be a huge crowd."

St. Onge, Lindsay and Hilli--man are expected to come to Steamboat in late December for the Olympic-qualifying event. The skiers who win the men's and women's aerials Dec. 30 at Howelsen Hill will earn an invitation to Turin, Italy, for the 2006 Olympics.

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