Steamboat Springs, CO, Dec. 14, 2001--Canadian Stephane Rochon and defending World Cup champion Kari Traa of Norway were the World Cup moguls winners Friday in the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National, but U.S. skiers tightened the race for Olympic spots with eight top-10 results, including a second-place finish for hometown hero Travis Mayer and a second podium for Jeremy Bloom (Loveland, CO). Photo: Travis Mayer (Allsport/Brian Bahr)
"I wasn't expecting this. I was overjoyed when I just made Finals," said Mayer, who stayed at home and, as he headed to the mountain, stopped at a local restaurant (The Shack) for his normal pre-event breakfast of huevos (eggs) rancheros with a side of rye toast. "I'm sure it'll sink in later."
NBC will broadcast coverage of the Sprint Grand National Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. EST. Three 19-year-old Coloradans - Mayer, Bloom (who moved up to the A Team with his second top-3) and Emiko Torito (Denver) - led the way to eight top-10s for the day.
Traa romped in the women's contest as she earned the 17th win of her career, winning by 1.44 points with a total of 25.99 over Russian Ljudmilla Dymchenko with Austrian Margarita Marbler third (25.19). Torito was fourth with Hannah Hardaway (Moultonborough, NH) fifth, Donna Weinbrecht (Killington, VT) seventh, and Jillian Vogtli (Ellicotville, NY) ninth.
U.S. men go 2-3-4-6-11
On the men's side, Rochon got his eighth win when Sami Mustonen of Finland, who led the qualifying heat, ran into problems on the bottom half of the course. Rochon had 27.43 points and Mayer had 27.13. Bloom, who took another major step toward qualifying for the Olympics after postponing acceptance of a football scholarship to the University of Colorado with his second podium (he was third in the season opener Dec. 1 at Tignes, France), was third at 26.72, just .01 ahead of teammate Travis Ramos (South Lake Tahoe, CA).
In addition, Chris Hernandez (also South Lake Tahoe) was sixth and Alex Wilson (Buffalo, NY) 11th as the event was staged in bright sunshine on Steamboat resort's Voodoo run. A couple of inches of snow during the night had no effect on the course, which was icy and solid after recent storms and cold weather.
It was just the second World Cup for Mayer, who also was a discretionary pick for Tignes and finished 27th. "I didn't have expectations. I'm just here to soak up experience," he explained, "so...no way I could've expected it. I didn't have any pressure because I had nothing to lose...
"We've got 10 or 12 guys who could be on the podium. We don't have enough starts for everybody."
Taking big risk pays off
He qualified 12th, so Mayer skied first in Finals. In between runs, Mayer, 19, checked with his coaches and decided, with nothing to lose, he'd go big on his bottom jump. And he nailed a quad-twister.
"They said to go for it and I agreed..." Second World Cup, second place. Mission accomplished.
Moguls Head Coach Don St. Pierre was understandably pleased with the eight top-10s and especially with the skiing by Mayer and Torito.
"We had half the women's team in Finals but they weren't in striking distance, but it's still a good step forward. It would be nice to get a win but we also want to keep climbing. This will help keep everyone still a little hungry...and,' St. Pierre said, "it also puts some pressure on some of our A Team athletes to start producing."
Head Coach Jeff Wintersteen smiled as he noted both Mayer and Torito were discretionary picks, as the additional starter for the home nation, at the Sprint World Cups; Bloom was a coaches' add-on for tignes, too. "We took some heat for our choices," Wintersteen said, "but they paid us back. If Emiko had cleaned up that triple at the bottom, I think she'd've been on the podium, too, but it was great for her...and for Travis, wow! Just great...
Podium performances pave path for picks
"The women are coming on and the men...it's like each of them feels if he has a startt, he has a shot at the podium. It's the old 'Put me in, coach' because they all feel they can do it...and they can." Podium performances make it a lot easier in selecting an Olympic Team, he added, because coaches can go strictly by objective criteria. "It's a real luxury when you can pick off the podium for your Olympic Team...but we did that in men's aerials in '98 and we're getting there now with men's moguls."
"I had a lot of hard training and I feel really focused," Torito said. "I skied all summer and trained hard, so it all pays off." She ran into problems at the bottom when her ski tips crossed briefly during her second jump, possibly costing the 19-year-old the first podium of her career.
The Sprint Grand National concludes Saturday with dual moguls.
WORLD CUP MOGULS
Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National
Steamboat Springs, CO - Dec. 14
(12 make Finals)
1. Stephane Rochon, Canada, 27.43 points
2. Travis Mayer, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 27.13
3. Jeremy Bloom, Loveland, Colo., 26.72
4. Travis Ramos, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 26.71
5. Scott Bellevance, Canada, 26.36
6. Chris Hernandez, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 26.16
11. Alex Wilson, Buffalo, N.Y., 24.01
19. Travis Cabral, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
22. Garth Hager, Bothell, Wash.
37 Jonny Moseley, Tiburon, Calif.
38. Ryan Riley, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
55. Toby Dawson, Vail, Colo.
1. Kari Traa, Norway, 26.99
2. Ljudmilla Dymchenko, Russia, 25.55
3. Margarita Marbler, Austria, 25.19
4. Emiko Torito, Denver, 25.07
5. Hannah Hardaway, Moultonborough, N.H., 24.96
7. Donna Weinbrecht, Killington, Vt., 24.49
9. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y., 24.19
15. Ann Battelle, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
24. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif.
30. Laurel Shanley, Olympic Valley, Calif.
36. Michelle Roark, Golden, Colo.
World Cup Standings
Men (2 events)
1. Rochon, 196 points
2. Bloom, 184
3. Sami Mustonen, Finland, 156
4. Laurent Niol, France, 152
5. Adrien Costa, Australia, 148
10. Mayer, 96
11. Ramos, 88
12. Hernandez, 80
16. Moseley, 68
19. Wilson, 60
28. (tie) Riley and Cabral, 28 each
34. Hager, 16
36. Dawson, 12
1. Traa, 200
2. Hardaway, 180
3. Sandra Laoura, France, 164
4. (tie) Marbler and Marina Cerkasova, Russia, 144 each
8. Weinbrecht, 120
13. Torito, 88
18. Vogtli, 72
23. Battelle, 60
26. Bahrke, 32