Nicole Miller: Olympics a dream come true

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Nicole Miller

This always was my dream. Some little girls want to be ballerinas. Some want to be astronauts or teachers. I wanted to be a freestyle moguls skier.

I learned how to ski at Howelsen Hill when I was 3 years old. Learning to ski at Howelsen mostly entails falling off the Poma lift and then being forced to ski the black face, which makes for a pretty steep learning curve.

I didn’t grow up in Steamboat, but like most kids who did, I set my sights on the Olympics early. As a child, I assumed being an Olympic athlete was the greatest thing anyone could do in a lifetime.

On Sunday, I got to see the greatest moments — and some of the not-so-great moments — of the four men on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team who competed in the moguls event.

The event was held at Cypress Mountain — about 20 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia — where some 300 truckloads of snow were brought in from nearly three hours away to create the course. Pouring rain all day Saturday did a number on the bumps, and one athlete said it felt like skiing on quicksand. On Sunday morning, helicopters ferried 10-ton buckets of snow to the mountain to make final preparations.

The snow was less than ideal, but great things were meant for this course. On Saturday, Americans Hannah Kearney and Shannon Bahrke stood on the podium after the women’s event, taking gold and bronze, respectively.

On Sunday, all four American men made it to the finals, but that’s when troubles began for the U.S. team. Michael Morse skied second and soon was bumped out of medal contention. Then, Nathan Roberts missed a pole plant and skied off the course, and Patrick Deneen landed his second jump badly and crashed, sliding across the finish line.

Bryon Wilson was America’s last hope for a medal in the event. He skied third to last with a Canadian and a French skier to follow. Wilson’s big air and tight turns won him a bronze, giving the U.S. its third moguls medal of these games.

In this sport, worlds revolve around a pole plant, and dreams are crushed with a missed one. I don’t envy these athletes. Standing at the bottom of the course, I could see the disappointment in the faces of those who crashed or missed out on key points. But the Olympics are only a series of moments — some extraordinary and some heartbreaking — within a lifetime. The athletes who compete on this world stage are destined for great things, most of which will occur after they return home.

The Olympics always have held a special place in my heart. My mother always is mad at me for not remembering key events from my childhood, but there are things I remember. I remember Jonny Moseley’s dinner roll. I remember when the Olympic Skiing Federation decided to allow inverted tricks. And I remember the first time I skied Chute 1.

I’ve always loved the moguls. I could ski them all day, and the hopes of a country never weighed on my shoulders. So when I return from Vancouver, I can be found perfecting my turns on Whiteout and daydreaming about these days I spent at the Olympic Games. These days I will never forget.

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