17 furious days to the Olympic team: Ski jumpers and Alpine snowboarders vie for spots | SteamboatToday.com

17 furious days to the Olympic team: Ski jumpers and Alpine snowboarders vie for spots

Maggie Rose Carrigan rides in the Race to the Cup parallel slalom race in Steamboat Springs last month.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Not all of Steamboat’s potential 2018 Olympians can make it together. Especially in a few sports, there are only a few spots up for grabs. There’s no better example than Alpine snowboarding. Steamboat Springs became a hub for the sport after the U.S. cut off funding for it. Nearly every notable athlete in the country hoping to race at the Olympics at some point has come to Steamboat to train with coach Thedo Remmelink.

Something has to give, and just who gets to realize their dream in the coming weeks and who’s going to have to wait four more years will soon be decided. Today, we analyze the case for six Alpine snowboarders, and also for three young Steamboat women aiming to make it to the Winter Olympics in ski jumping.

Maggie Rose Carrigan

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: Raised in Steamboat in a family of standout snowboarders and still trains with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Position: Carrigan has established herself as the top woman in the sport in the United States, holding a slight lead on the impeccably named Abby Champagne, but her battle is to first meet the International Olympic Committee's qualifying standards for her event — a top-30 finish — and then to do well enough to prove to U.S. organizers that she's worthy of a spot on the team. She was close to the IOC's standards last season and has come close again several times this year, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

What needs to go right: She needs that top-30 finish to get into the conversation about being on the team. It’ll all come down to two events later this month in Slovenia. She's young, just 21, so it doesn’t all come down to this Olympics, but it'd be a great accomplishment if she made it.

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Chances: Needs something good to happen: 40 percent

Chances at the Olympics: The 2022 Olympics is really a more realistic time for her to be podium competitive, but she could aim for a top-25 finish this go-around.

Aaron "AJ" Muss

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: A New Jersey native, Muss has trained in Steamboat Springs since 2008.

Position: It's always tricky for Alpine snowboarders in the United States. The U.S. hasn’t had an official team for more than a decade. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has largely stepped in to serve that purpose. What that means at the Olympics is the U.S. doesn't fall all over itself looking for ways to take racers to the Olympics. But it does consistently take at least one, and Muss has had the results to put him in position to be the one. After spending years finishing near the back of the pack in World Cup events, he's broken through in the last 12 months, recording three top-10 finishes. He’s only been out of the top 15 once this season.

What needs to go right: Two qualifying events remain, Jan. 20 and 21 in Rogla, Slovenia. He needs to maintain his string of top-15 results there, though a finish on the podium would really solidify his spot.

Chances: Things are lookin' good: 75 percent

Chances at the Olympics: He hasn't yet shown he can make the podium to win a medal, so that doesn’t’ seem like a realistic expectation. But a top-10 result certainly should be possible.

Michael Trapp

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: Trapp spends his offseason in Massachusetts, then spends the winter among the stable of elite alpine snowboarders who train with Winter Sports Club coach Thedo Remmelink in Steamboat.

Position: He was in a better spot a month ago. Trapp closed out the 2016-17 season with several big results, 16th in the World Championships, eighth in one World Cup, then a sixth-place finish in the second-to-last World Cup. That seemed to set him up well for the looming season and a spot at the Olympics, but he hasn't been able to carry that momentum across the summer. His best result so far is 28th, enough to make him technically eligible for the Olympics but likely not enough to attract the eye of the U.S. team.

What needs to go right: Two qualifying events remain, on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, which means opportunities remain for Trapp to take the steps he needs to take. He'll likely need at least top-10 results there, if not a podium, however.

Chances:  Needs something good to happen: 20 percent.

Chances at the Olympics: He'd be a longshot for a medal racing the way he has this season, but he's been better in the recent past. He was 16th at the World Championships, so at least matching that result would be possible.

Robby Burns

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: Burns, from California, trains with Remmelink and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Position: He's not off to a strong start to the season with just one top-40 result. It hurts his cause that he's currently third among U.S. racers in a sport where his nation will likely be reluctant to send more than one or two athletes.

What needs to go right: He needs a big shift in momentum in the final week of the Olympic qualifying season, so that probably means a spot on the podium. That would definitely be enough to get him on the team.

Chances: Longshot: 5 percent

Chances at the Olympics: The field tightens at the Olympics so he could definitely be poised for a top-20 finish.

Converse Fields

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: Fields is still another athlete who trains with Remmelink. Seriously, almost everyone who’s anyone in the U.S. in Alpine snowboarding works through Steamboat.

Position: Fields looked to be ticking up late last season with a top-25 finish in a World Cup in Germany, and he competed for the United States in the World Championships, but he hasn't had strong results in the World Cup outside of that day.

What needs to go right: He'll need a stunning performance in the final qualifiers to make the squad.

Chances: Longshot: 2 percent

Chances at the Olympics: A spot in the top-20 would be a respectable result.

Ryan Rosencranz

Sport: Alpine snowboarding

Ties to Steamboat: Rosencranz is from Boston and trains with Remmelink and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Position: He's another of the U.S. riders who hasn’t been able to rack up strong World Cup finishes early this season, leaving him on the outside looking in, in terms of the Olympics.

What needs to go right: There's still time for a big result to change things, but there are plenty of other U.S. riders looking for that same home-run event.

Chances: Longshot: 2 percent

Chances at the Olympics: He'd be aiming for the top 20 in South Korea.

Annika Belshaw

Sport: Ski jumping

Ties to Steamboat: Grew up and lives in Steamboat Springs.

Position: Belshaw doesn’t have a very direct road to the Olympic team, but she's put up strong enough results to at least be mentioned here. She was 11th and 13th in her only international competitions of the year, last month in a Continental Cup event in Norway. Those results allowed her to meet the International Olympic Committee's basic qualification standards.

What needs to go right: Belshaw, just 15 years old, placed sixth in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last month in Park City. One of the jumpers ahead of her, Nina Lussi, was injured in that event and while that's not the way anyone would hope to move up a rung on the ladder, she nevertheless does. All of a sudden that leaves her one spot away from the four-woman team that would potentially go to South Korea. Only one of the four women ahead of Belshaw has a World Cup point: one-time Steamboat trainee Nita Englund. Another, 2013 World Champ and 2014 Olympian Sarah Hendrickson, won the Olympic Trials, so she's secured a spot, as well. It still very well may not be enough — the women ahead of her are talented and with much more experience — but if Belshaw can post strong results in the last pre-Olympic Continental Cup, set for Jan. 20-21 in Slovenia, she could at least make filling out the team a tough decision for U.S. officials.

Chances: Needs something good to happen: 20 percent.

Chances at the Olympics: Belshaw's a unique talent in the sport, but making the 2018 Olympics would be ahead of schedule. If she did cut the timeline an earn a trip to South Korea, it'd be hard to know what to expect given her lack of competition against a similar field. Anything in the top 30 would be a good result.

 

Logan Sankey

Sport: Ski jumping

Ties to Steamboat: Training in Park City, Utah now but grew up in Steamboat.

Position: Sankey's spot is very similar to Belshaw's. She had strong performances at the season’s first Continental Cup, placing 15th and 16th, and she was seventh at the U.S. Team Olympic Trials.

What needs to go right: She needs to make the most of that last Continental Cup to make her best case for the team. Once again, she has a lot in common with Belshaw in that she’s young, only 19, so the 2018 Olympics can’t be figuring into her plans the way the 2022 Olympics might. But there's at least the hint of an opportunity there.

Chances: Needs something good to happen: 20 percent

Chances at the Olympics: Sankey hasn’t competed in any World Cup competitions, so it's hard to rate her against an international field. Top 30 would be a wonderful result in South Korea.

 

Nita Englund

Sport: Ski jumping

Ties to Steamboat: Englund's from Wisconsin but trained for several years in Steamboat Springs.

Position: She's in a good spot. She placed 30th in a World Cup last month in Norway, making her the only U.S. team member with a point from this season. Factor in several years of strong results on the World Cup and while she's not a lock, she's in a good spot to make the team.

What needs to go right: The women's ski jumping World Cup really picks up the pace in the next two weeks with a total of five events at two locations in Japan. A few more top-30 finishes would very much solidify Englund's spot.

Chances: Things are lookin' good: 90 percent.

Chances at the Olympics: In her last trip to PyeongChang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Olympics, Englund had the best results of her career, placing seventh and eighth in Olympic test World Cup events. It'd be a great result to repeat those finishes.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.