Steamboat’s Shimko goes big to earn World Cup start
December 20, 2017
WINTER PARK — There are certainly more high profile events on the U.S. freestyle moguls skiing calendar, even in years that don't feature an Olympic Games, but this season will feature an Olympics, and Wednesday on the decisive day at the U.S. Ski Team Selections event in Winter Park, the nerves boiled over at times.
One men's competitor took a brutal fall off the second jump on the Ambush moguls run near the base of Winter Park, crashing into the snow in front of the judges, coaches, athletes and fans.
He didn't quickly acknowledge he was OK, capable of getting the rest of the way down the run by himself, but instead whipped his ski poles into the snow at his feet in frustration, then buried his head in his hands, taking a long moment in the midst of the course for one of the most pressure-packed competitions of any season.
For every dream that was broken on the hard moguls at Winter Park, however, one was born.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Avital Shimko fell into the "a dream born" category Wednesday when she finished off the week on the leading edge of what was a powerhouse performance by a group of young Steamboat women.
Shimko was first place in Monday's first individual moguls event, then second Wednesday, and it earned her a truly special opportunity: her first career World Cup start, scheduled for next month at Deer Valley Resort, Utah.
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"I'm super excited," Shimko said. "I was happy to see the hard work pay off."
For skiers both young and filled with aspiration and old and filled with hold, the team selections event offers a huge opportunity. Come out as the top athlete after two days of individual moguls competition and you're heading to the big time having earned a start spot at that January World Cup.
Show well at the World Cup and anything's possible. A skier would likely get more World Cup starts, and if those went well, too, a spot on the Olympic team could await.
But, the process for many starts at team selections, and Monday and Wednesday Shimko was skiing as well as she ever has.
She won with a final-run score of 77.80 on Monday, then was second at 77.86 on Wednesday.
"She's just really put her head down these last 12 months," coach Kate Blamey said. "Placing third on the Nor-Am tour last season was a big boost of confidence and she really ramped it up this prep season."
She actually ended the weekend in a tie with Ali Kariotis, who was second Monday and first Wednesday. Shimko got the nod for the World Cup slot thanks to a second-place finish at the U.S. Freestyle Moguls National Championships in Steamboat. Kariotis was fourth that day.
"It would mean a lot to start a World Cup. It would be awesome," said Shimko, a New York native who's trained in Steamboat Springs.
And as for the Olympics?
"Nope," Shimko said, asked if she's spent much time thinking about the possibility. "It is in the back of my mind, but I just want to do the hard work and see where it takes me."
Shimko could be one of three Steamboat-trained women to start that event, along with U.S. Ski Team members Jaelin Kauf and Olivia Giaccio.
She wasn't the only Steamboat woman to thrive in Winter Park.
Maggie Ryan was fourth on Monday, Trudy Mickel eighth and Kenzie Radway, just 14 and competing in her first major event, 10th.
Radway was even sharper Wednesday, placing sixth. Ryan was eighth and Mickel 14th.
"For her, this being her first FIS event, it's amazing and demonstrates the potential she has," Blamey said. "She rips."
Shimko took the crown on the women's side while Casey Andringa did on the men's. He won both Monday's and Wednesday's events and earned his own spot in Deer Valley.
Steamboat's Ryan Dyer, aiming to use the selections event as a springboard to the Olympics, came up short, placing ninth Monday and 14th Wednesday.