Steamboat Springs, CO, Dec. 15, 2001--Frenchman Richard Gay ignored steady snowfall Saturday to claim the first dual moguls title of his career and American Emiko Torito (Denver) grabbed her first World Cup podium at the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National.
Gay, 30, defeated Janne Lahtela of Finland while the 19-year-old Torito surprisingly advanced before losing to Germany's Christine Gerg in the final. It was also Gerg's first World Cup win.
NBC will broadcast coverage of the Sprint Grand National on Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. EST.
"I'm surprised with it," said Gay. "It's my first victory. I've had second and third, but I was waiting for this (place). I wasn't going to compete today. I was going to take it as a training day but I hadn't really made my plans, so I just went with it."
Garth Hager (Bothell, WA) placed sixth, the highest U.S finish, followed by Toby Dawson (Vail, CO) in eighth.
A steady, light snow produced about six inches of snow during the competition.
Torito, who placed fourth in Friday's moguls event after being selected to compete in the event as a coach's discretionary choice, upset reigning World Cup champion Kari Traa of Norway in the semifinals. Traa claimed the 17th title of her career Friday and eventually finished fourth on Saturday.
Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, CA), Michelle Roark (Golden, CO) and AnnBattelle (Steamboat Springs, CO) tied for ninth completing the four American women in the top 10.
For Torito, her runner-up position was uexpected, except by her coaches.
"Yeah, I surprised myself. I didn't expect this at all," she said.She's a former two-time World Juniors moguls medalist, including the gold medal last season. Saturday was just her fifth World Cup event and she was a coaches discretionary pick to compete for the weekend, but her fourth Friday and second Saturday were the top U.S. women's result each day.
She made history with her performance, becoming the first U.S. skier of Panamanian-Japanese descent to earn a World Cup podium. Her father was born in Japan, while her mother was born in Panama but was raised in the United States, like her daughter. Emiko Torito went to high school in suburban Denver until her sophomore year, then transferred to Steamboat's Whiteman School; she's been accepted at Denver University next year.
"There's a little less pressure, because it's not an Olympic event," said Torito. "But I as I advanced, I started to feel the pressure. I just tookthe approach that if I got eliminated, I would go in and get warm. But I just kept hanging in there."
C Team Head Coach Dee Williams said Torito was selected to compete after her strong performances in training camps in Chile and Winter Park, Colo.
"Discretionary picks are really, really difficult," said Williams. "But she was just performing incredibly well, and we felt it was good to get her some experience on home soil."
The next competition for the U.S. moguls skiers will be the U.S. Skii Team Gold Cup Olympic qualifier New Year's Eve at Utrah's Deer Valley Resort. The winner in the moguls contest will get $10,000 and a ticket to the Olympics.
WORLD CUP DUAL MOGULS
Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National
Steamboat Springs, CO - Dec. 15
1. Richard Gay, France
2. Janne Laktela, Finland
3. Stephane Rochon, Canada
4. Sami Mustonen, Finland
5. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, France
6. Garth Hager, Bothell, Wash.
8. Toby Dawson, Vail, Colo.
33. Mike Friedberg, Boulder, Colo.
1. Christine Gerg, Germany
2. Emiko Torito, Denver
3. Tami Bradley, Canada
4. Kari Traa, Norway
5. Tee Satoya, Japan
9. (tie) Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif.; Michele Roark, Golden, Colo.;and Ann Battelle, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
17. (tie) Justine Van Haute, Telluride, Colo.; Laurel Shanley, Squaw Valley, Calif.; and Jilian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y.