Summit’s Dylan Walczyk qualifies for Beijing Olympics
Breckenridge mogul veteran headed to February games as an independent skier
EAGLE — Dylan Walczyk had to buck the institutional system on his way to qualifying for his first U.S. Olympic Team, as announced by U.S. Ski and Snowboard on Thursday, Jan. 20.
The mogul skier — who lives in Breckenridge but hails from Rochester, New York — was not named to the U.S. Ski Team this fall and has competed independently for the entire Olympic cycle. Great results, which kept him in the World Cup circuit as an independent, finally led him to the elusive quadrennial pinnacle.
“It’s 20 years of super hard work — a lifetime goal achievement,” said Walczyk, who has made every World Championship team since his international career began.
“It’s absolutely huge, and it’s the last thing that I wanted out of my skiing career. I had to stick it out through some pretty tough scenarios to get there. Stuff that other athletes haven’t necessarily dealt with or they’ve quit,” Walczyk said.
The adversity mostly revolves around “political struggles with the U.S. team,” he said.
“Since I’ve first made the team, there’s always been a problem there. I was not and am not the golden boy in the U.S. Ski Team’s eyes,” Walczyk explained.
He declined to move to Park City upon first making the team in 2012.
“I won’t say it’s mandatory, but it was very expected,” he said about the training location.
Instead, he remained with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail to be coached by John Dowling.
“I knew and I know that I got better. It was better for my career to stay with John and ski with John,” Walczyk said.
The decision did not sit well with administrators and coaches, according to the 28-year-old.
“The only thing that ever kept me alive on the U.S. Team was my results. To their displeasure, I kept qualifying for the team, just through results and performance,” he said about the developing friction.
“And every time I would requalify for the team, they would take that criteria that I qualified with off the table for the next year,” Walczyk said. “Finally, three years ago, they created an age-limitation to qualify for the ski team.”
The Project 2026 initiative, an age-based criteria movement across all disciplines at U.S. Ski and Snowboard, which was introduced in 2016 but refined in 2020, almost seemed tailor-made to push out athletes like Walczyk.
“They started setting the bar lower for younger skiers and setting the bar really high for older skiers,” Dowling told the Vail Daily in December.
Walczyk said the standard for making the team in his age bracket was “relatively unrealistic for qualifying for a national team.”
As a result, he was stripped of his World Cup starts as well as his team spot. Walczyk didn’t go full-Ren McCormack and play a game of chicken with tractors, but he did hire a lawyer to take his case pro bono. He won the legal case based on age-discrimination, getting those World Cup starts back three years ago. From there, he’s had to place high enough in World Cup events to continue earning additional starting spots through FIS points.
“I’ve done this whole cycle independently,” said Walczyk, who was the highest ranked U.S. mogul skier in the World Cup standings in 2020.
He hasn’t been totally alone, however, as Alex DeBonville, another Dowling pupil and close friend, has been his coach and roommate all along.
“To be honest, it was a dream of Alex and mine since we started skiing together,” Walczyk said about the pair traveling the World Cup.
“He’s two years younger than me, and he was very talented at the time, too, so we had kind of always dreamed about competing the World Cup together,” Walczyk said. “So this was kind of a cool, next-best option because he understands my skiing really well, growing up under the same coaching scheme together. We’re kind of just two friends skiing the tour together for the last three years.”
Walczyk’s unique coaching situation also has a competitive advantage.
“Athletes at the highest level don’t necessarily get to choose their coaches in any nation. It’s just kind of who they can work with that they work with, whereas Alex and I are a different situation because I chose him to work with me,” Walczyk explained.
“He’s known my skiing for 15 years. There’s a lot of aspects to coaching that aren’t just technical and tactical. At a higher level, there’s a lot of mental coaching and things like that and that’s primarily the reason I chose him. We’re super close. He understands the way that I operate, the way that I ski and the way that I compete.”
Even though he’d be justified, Walczyk said there is no bad blood between him and U.S. Ski and Snowboard.
“They’ve been supportive in the sense that they’ve dropped their side of the grudge, and I have, as well,” he said about the organization. “They don’t support me financially, but they haven’t necessarily tried to get in my way the last couple years.”
Walczyk said he is friends with the other guys heading to Beijing, as well.
With the road to China so long and winding, it’s revealed to Walczyk just what his world is truly all about.
“I like skiing, man,” Walczyk said after a long pause when asked about his driving purpose.
“When I made the decision three years ago to keep pushing — there’s only a limited amount of time that you can do this sort of thing,” Walczyk said. “There’s only so many times that you’re going to have that opportunity to stand in that start gate, and I think for me, just to maximize the amount of times that I have the opportunity to do that is probably the most important piece.”
These are the Coloradans participating in the Winter Games and their sports:
• Nina O’Brien, Denver
• River Radamus, Edwards
• Mikaela Shiffrin, Edwards
• Hailey Swirbul, El Jebel
• Brandon Frazier, Colorado Springs
• Aaron Blunck, Crested Butte
• Hanna Faulhaber, Basalt
• Alex Ferreira, Aspen
• Birk Irving, Winter Park
• Dylan Walczyk, Breckenridge
• Nicholas Shore, Denver
• Nicole Hensley, Lakewood
• Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs
• Jasper Good, Steamboat Springs
• Chris Corning, Silverthorne
• Mick Dierdorff, Steamboat Springs
• Lucas Foster, Telluride
• Stacy Gaskill, Golden
• Red Gerard, Silverthorne
• Taylor Gold, Breckenridge
• Hagen Kearney, Norwood
• Meghan Tierney, Eagle
• Cody Winters, Steamboat Springs
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