Steamboat Springs The stadium lights had barely cooled at the London Olympics closing ceremony when the attention turned to the next Olympic Games.
As much as people enjoy synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, the Winter Olympics hit closer to home in the Yampa Valley.
And with less than 100 days until ski season and 540 days until the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it’s time to look at which Steamboat athletes could shine on sport's biggest stage.
Talk about Olympics in Steamboat can’t start anywhere else: At the Vancouver Olympics, the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team won four of seven possible medals, the first in the U.S. team's history.
“We’re gunning for that,” coach Dave Jarrett said. “We have the bar set high. I guess if you swept every individual event and got a team medal, you could get seven out of seven.”
Expectations are different, but the faces will remain mostly the same. Currently, Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane, Billy Demong, Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher are on the A Team.
Those five are expected to compete on the World Cup schedule this season and likely will make up the U.S. team in 2014.
But Jarrett cautioned that a deeper B Team could make things interesting closer to the games.
“You never know about 2014,” he said. “We could have a fight for one of those four or five spots.”
On the B Team are Erik Lynch, Michael Ward, Adam Loomis, Brett Denney and Nick Hendrickson.
Jarrett said after a little Olympic hangover, the Nordic combined team is back in the hunt for more hardware.
“I think, certainly, there was a little letdown after the 2010 season,” he said. “I think that the guys that won medals want to win medals again. The guys that didn’t are hungry as ever to join that shortlist.”
As much as the Nordic combined team has grabbed headlines, an ever-growing and competitive snowboarding program at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club should start to see its years of work payoff.
Led by A Team half-pipe snowboarders Matt Ladley and Maddy Schaffrick, Steamboat should have good representation in Sochi.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Jon Casson, snowboard director for the Winter Sports Club. “We’re cautiously optimistic, but the kids have worked hard and put themselves in a good spot.”
In addition to Ladley and Schaffrick, Arielle Gold, Taylor Gold and Benji Farrow should have realistic shots at making the 2014 snowboard half-pipe team.
“It’s just so super competitive,” Casson said.
In snowboard slope-style, Winter Sports Club newcomer Ty Walker burst onto the scene last year and should have an opportunity in the new Olympic event.
In snowboard giant slalom and parallel giant slalom Justin Reiter, Mike Trapp, Mimi Wiencke and Cassie Wagar should have a good shot.
In snowboard cross, American Jenna Feldman probably has the best chance. A pair of Australians who train with the Winter Sports Club — Jarryd Hughes and Belle Brockhoff — are great bets to make the Olympics, as well.
“The next 18 months are crazy,” Casson said. “It’s lots of travel, lots of competition and intense pressure. It starts now.
One of Steamboat’s best chances for a medal likely will come in freestyle moguls. The Winter Sports Club rapidly has established itself as a top program in the nation.
Led by A Team members Patrick Deneen, Jeremy Cota and Eliza Outtrim, Steamboat should be well-represented.
Last season, Deneen was second and Cota was third in the World Cup standings. Outtrim was eighth.
Also in contention are B Team member Brittany Loweree and Steamboat’s Ryan Dyer.
“We’ve got some guys and gals that are on track not only to go but to be competitors at the games,” Winter Sports Club freestyle director Erik Skinner said.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com