Bloom clinches Olympic berth at Steamboat | SummitDaily.com

Bloom clinches Olympic berth at Steamboat

SHAUNAFARNELL

AP Photo Loveland native and Team Breckenridge alumnus Jeremy Bloom celebrates as he crosses the finish line after winning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team during the freestyle moguls team trials in Steamboat Springs on Friday.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Jeremy Bloom is going to the Olympics for the second time. By winning a wildcard spot at the U.S. Olympic qualifier moguls event in Steamboat Springs on Friday, Bloom – considered by many to be the 2006 gold medal favorite – officially punched his ticket to Turin, Italy.He threw a huge 720 with an iron cross off the first hit of the course on Steamboat’s Voodoo Run, then gathered speed as his feet bounced like synchronized springs over each bump and finished with an off-axis 720 D-spin. The clean combination gave him a score of 27.82 points.

He watched relaxed as his key competitors, all fellow U.S. Ski Team members (the event was only open to national team athletes), failed to match his run.”I wasn’t nervous watching the other guys,” said the 23-year-old Loveland native, who grew up skiing for the Keystone Moguls Team and Team Breckenridge. “Even if the judges didn’t put me in first place, I really accomplished everything I wanted to today to not get too technical with my skiing. I needed to increase my speed. I needed to look for better angles in my skiing to increase my turn scores. I really wanted to work with the top 720, being more patient with it, then taking the bottom air up instead of just rushing in. Those aspects really came together.”February will be a busy month for Bloom, who played football at the University of Colorado until he had to forego the last two seasons to pursue his skiing career. One week after the Feb. 15 Olympic moguls event in Sauze d’Oulx, Italy, Bloom will take part in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis before the draft on Feb. 29.”It’s nice to check that box,” Bloom said of making the Olympic team. “I’ve been saying for a long time that if I make it to the Olympics, I’ll be at the combine a week after. But it really came together today, which is a great feeling. It’s probably a better feeling than knowing I’m going to the Olympics.”

Bloom was the 2005 world champion and won a record six straight World Cup events last season. As for his performance Friday, U.S. freestyle head coach Jeff Wintersteen said Bloom and his teammate Travis Mayer, who went to high school in Steamboat and placed second in the qualifier, just a fraction of a point behind Bloom (27.57), put down perfect runs.”(Bloom’s) and T. Mayer’s were gold and silver in Torino,” Wintersteen said. “They were flawless today, both of them.”Vail’s Toby Dawson – another former Team Breck skier – took third, but he felt his run was top-notch and was frustrated with his result and 26.84-point score.Team Breck alum Luke Westerlund finished eighth (23.21), while Team Summit alum Dave Babic took 12th (14.49).

Teenager Kearney earns ticket to 2006 GamesOn the women’s side, meanwhile, Hannah Kearney woke up before her alarm went off Friday, then went out and clinched the U.S. wildcard spot for the 2006 Olympics.The red-hot 19-year-old from Vermont will turn 20 on Feb. 26, a few days after competing in the Turin moguls event. Last season, she was the women’s world champion in moguls. She won the first World Cup event earlier this month in Tignes, France – already her 10th World Cup podium.

“The only one that really competes against Hannah is Hannah,” the U.S. coach Wintersteen said. “When Hannah skis well, I think she’s the best (female) skier in the world.”After a shaky qualifying run and equally inconsistent runs before the final, Kearney put down a fast, tidy run for a score of 26.66 points, just ahead of New York’s Jillian Vogtli (26.40) and Shelly Robertson (26.37) of Squaw Valley, Calif. Breckenridge resident and Team Summit alum Heather McPhie finished seventh (25.04).Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14632, or at sfarnell@vaildaily.com.