Photo by John F. Russell
The next generation of U.S. Winter Olympians will take center stage in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday and Thursday for the 2010 U.S. Winter Olympic Team Trials. With automatic berths to Vancouver, British Columbia, on the line, our country’s best moguls, aerials and Nordic combined skiers will look to replicate what Ryan St. Onge, pictured above, did on the slopes of Howelsen Hill just four years ago: celebrate the realization of their athletic dreams.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Watch the trials on TV
The Olympic Trials are scheduled to air at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC.
8:30 a.m. Nordic combined trial jumps at Howelsen Hill
9 to 9: 30 a.m. Nordic combined competition jumps at Howelsen Hill
11:30 a.m. to noon Nordic combined 10-kilometer cross-country race at the rodeo grounds at Howelsen Hill
12:45 p.m. Moguls showcase at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area
1 to 1:45 p.m. Men’s and women’s moguls Run 1 at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area
2 to 2:45 p.m. Men’s and women’s moguls Run 2 at Voo Doo ski run
3:30 p.m. Final Awards for all events at Gondola Square, at Steamboat Ski Area
4 p.m. Concert — Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Gondola Square
10 to 10:30 a.m. Aerials Run 1 at Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area
10:40 to 11:10 a.m. Aerials Run 2 at Voo Doo ski run
11:30 a.m. Aerials awards at Voo Doo ski run
All events are free and open to the public
Entering the 2002 U.S. Winter Olympic Trials, moguls skier Travis Mayer was on the outside looking in.
The 19-year-old who had grown up in western New York before moving to Steamboat Springs for high school had made only two World Cup moguls starts and was on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s “C” squad. There was no question Mayer was on his way up the ladder — he had finished second in a World Cup start in Steamboat just before the 2002 trials — but that alone wouldn’t be enough to secure him a spot on the Olympic team.
Enter the Winter Olympic Trials — then known as the Gold Cup — in Deer Valley, Utah. With an automatic bid to the Olympics in Salt Lake City on the line, Mayer skied past the competition and catapulted himself into the sport’s elite. He rode the momentum from the trials all the way to the 2002 Olympic Games, where he further shocked the skiing world by taking silver in men’s moguls.
Now retired, Mayer can reflect on what it meant to win at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
“Winning that event changed everything for me. Sure I might have made it to the Olympics that year, but who knows.”
Like Mayer, U.S. Freestyle team aerialist and The Lowell Whiteman School graduate Ryan St. Onge also knows what it’s like to win at the Olympic Team Trials. His victory in Steamboat Springs a few weeks before the 2006 Winter Games still lives in his memories.
“I remember the night well. It was a great night for me,” St. Onge said. “All the competitors were having a very difficult time with the hill conditions, and it was much more tough for us to perform our tricks than it normally is. I remember landing my second jump and thinking how lucky I had gotten to do the tricks that I did and I was very fortunate that I won.”
On Wednesday and Thursday in Steamboat Springs, athletes on the U.S. Freestyle and U.S. Nordic Combined ski teams will look to replicate what Mayer and others have done in previous Olympic Trials.
“The Olympic Trials is one of the most important events of the year for us,” St. Onge said. “Usually we have to spend all the Olympic preparation period competing to gain spots on the team. But if you win the Olympic Trials and get that spot early, you can focus all your attention on the Olympic Games.”
Luke Bodensteiner, vice president of athletics for the U.S. Ski Team, is also excited that the Olympic Team Trials are coming to Steamboat Springs. He thinks Steamboat creates the perfect backdrop for this key event.
“It’s an awesome atmosphere for the trials. Steamboat is a great community with a long Olympic heritage,” he said.
While most of the spots on the Nordic combined and men’s and women’s Freestyle teams will be determined by the athletes’ world standing, the trials offer the “golden ticket” to those who win Wednesday and Thursday.
“We want to know we have athletes on the team that can perform on a given day,” Bodensteiner said. “These athletes will only have one shot at the Olympics, so we want to make sure that we have athletes who can perform under pressure.”