Seaton final Olympic qualifier this week: ‘Last call, going to give her my all’ | SteamboatToday.com

Seaton final Olympic qualifier this week: ‘Last call, going to give her my all’

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

Taylor Seaton, of Avon, flies out of the halfpipe at the fourth of five Olympic qualifiers for this season, which took place on Friday, Jan. 12, in Snowmass. Seaton failed to land a run and finished 10th.

AVON — Local halfpipe skier Taylor Seaton is keeping the optimism high heading into the final Olympic qualifier of the season.

With only one American having secured a spot on the four-person team thus far, Seaton is clinging on to his one hope of making it — a win.

"The competition among Americans is insane," Seaton said. "But it's been so fun to be a part of. I'm new to the U.S. Team and I'm just really thankful for all the resources they have provided for such a deep squad of skiers this year."

There's seven members of the U.S. Pro Halfpipe Ski Team, and six of them have had podium finishes at Olympic qualifiers, including Seaton.

Heading into the fifth of five qualifiers — which takes place at Mammoth Mountain in California this week starting Thursday, Jan. 18 — David Wise, of Reno, Nevada, is the only American who is guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team.

"Honestly, the level of skiing right now is the highest I've ever seen it," Wise said on Friday, Jan. 12. "The guys who are getting fifth and sixth today would have been on top of the podium two years ago, so that just speaks to the level of skiing."

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'WIN OR FALL TRYING'

Seaton has upped his own level of skiing in an effort to progress the sport, but admits with a limited amount of training this summer he feels like he's flying by the seat of his pants at times.

"I was injured this summer so I didn't get a lot of training in, so I've been using these comps as my training," he said of the Olympic qualifiers. "And I gotta say if you look at it that way, training is going pretty well."

Seaton failed to land a run in finals at the last competition, the fourth-of-five Olympic qualifiers, but missed his most difficult trick by mere inches and landed the trick most would consider the most difficult — the double cork 1260.

"I hadn't done the dub in two years but it came around no problem," Seaton said. "It's the alley-oop left 9 that's is the really difficult trick, which I don't think a lot of people realize. If I can land that one I think I could have a winning run on my hands."

No other competitor is performing an "alley-oop," or up the pipe spin, with a rotation of more than 540 degrees in their run. Seaton has two in his run, in addition to the coveted double cork 1260. He also has two switch (backwards facing) tricks, spinning 900 degrees to the right and 720 degrees to the left, and the variety in that combination is what Seaton says will take the sport to another level.

"I know I'd love to see a run landed with an alley-oop 7, an alley-oop 9, two switch hits and a dub, so I'm sure others would, as well," Seaton said. "It would be a never-before-done combo if I could pull it off."

He crashed three times attempting the run on Friday, Jan. 12, at qualifiers, but that was his plan.

"I went into the comp wanting to win or fall trying," he said. "I fell all three times, but just barely."

CONFIRMED FOR X GAMES

While many members of the team are hesitant to admit how much they are focused on the Olympics, Seaton is not shy about saying how much a spot would mean to him.

"My mom has been real sick, in and out of the hospital a bunch, and I just want to call her and tell her 'Mom I landed the dream run and I'm going to the Olympics,'" he said. "But honestly it's the dream run part that would be more important to me in that call. If I can land it in Mammoth or X Games after that, it would be just as meaningful. I'm trying to push the sport to a place where people actually acknowledge the type of variety I'm trying to bring, and this is the season to do it, while people are watching."

Seaton received his invite to X Games this week. He will be one of only 10 athletes to drop into the pipe this year in what will be the smallest field in X Games history on Thursday, Jan. 25.

"Once again, I want to win or crash trying," he said. "X Games, I think most of the field will tell you, is as important to our sport as the Olympics for the stage that it gives us."

But can he win?

"My mind is in a place now where I do believe that I can win this comp here this week," Seaton said from Mammoth on Monday, Jan. 15. "It would be my best-ever performance, but it's not unfathomable, for me, because one year ago here at this same event I won my heat against a lot of these same guys. It's last call and I'm going to give her my all."

Mammoth Grand Prix qualifiers are set for Thursday, Jan. 18, and the Olympic team will be named on Sunday, Jan. 21.