Team Summit star caps statement freeski season
15-year-old proves she’s part of ‘future of women’s freeskiing’
FRISCO — Jenna Riccomini thought she was in trouble.
Back at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Winter Olympic Games in January, U.S. team officials approached Riccomini and told her they needed to talk. After she was ushered to a different location and a video camera appeared, the 15-year-old native of State College, Pennsylvania, and Team Summit freestyle skier knew something else was up. Her coaches had nominated her to be the United States’ flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies of the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics, an event where Riccomini — several years younger than the vast majority of the competitors at the games — made a statement that she, as much as any young American female, is set to be a major part of freeskiing’s future, as her coach Dean Spirito said Friday.
“They told me I was nominated because ‘You’re always so happy, keeping the stoke real,’” Riccomini said. “They said, ‘We want someone like that to represent the U.S. team in general.’ But I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was, the closing ceremony. They’re handing me this huge flag, ‘Don’t mess up!’ Oh dang, this is a big deal. That was the big icing on the cake for that trip because I don’t only get to represent the freestyle team, I represent all of the athletes.”
January’s Youth Olympics, where Riccomini’s best finish was eighth in slopestyle, was just one of several major events this winter where Riccomini opened eyes as a supremely talented and versatile young freeskier. When Team Summit’s International Ski Federation coach Spirito reflects on the magical season the Breckenridge resident Riccomini has had, he points to her growth all-around as an athlete enabling her to shine from the Youth Olympics to the Aspen Open to the U.S. Revolution Tour — the step right below the World Cup circuit.
“Not just in terms of her technical approach to the sport, but also emotionally and mentally, she’s a lot stronger in that capacity, and she’s a lot more equipped to handle the stress that comes with an intense competition schedule,” Spirito said. “Between traveling all over the world, bouncing from one time zone to another, spending a lot of time in cars and on planes, being asked to then perform at a really high level adds to the stress.”
But Riccomini’s stoked-out approach to her young career has kept that stress at bay. This was Spirito’s sixth season coaching Riccomini, an athlete he described as a “natural born risk taker” who embodies Team Summit’s philosophy of creating skiers who can ski anything.
Earlier this season, Riccomini won second place at the highly competitive Mammoth Mountain Rev Tour big air, where her ability to land an unnatural 720-degree rotation to her rightside proved she can rise to the occasion in clutch moments.
Later in the season, at last month’s coveted Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open at the X Games superpipe at Buttermilk Ski Area, Riccomini earned strong second-place finishes on the slopestyle and big air courses before she had her “icing on the cake,” in the X Games pipe. Riccomini earned second on the strength of a run that included a final-run alley-oop 540 she was proud of.
Then on Friday, at the Rev Tour at Woodward Park City in Utah, Riccomini had the day she said she was most proud of this season. Though she wasn’t able to podium in the slopestyle contest, Riccomini worked with Spirito to develop a run through the slopestyle course she described as her most challenging and best ever. She laced the run in qualifications that Spirito said put her “out of her comfort zone,” a run that included a perfectly greased ski through the down-flat-down rail and a swap on the following rail feature, a transfer. She landed switch, or backward, off that feature to ski switch into the cannon rail, continuing a 270-degree rotation on the cannon to prove to herself that she can ski rails with the best up-and-comers in the world.
With her 16th birthday coming up later this week, Riccomini will celebrate the winding down of a terrific season in one of her favorite places: Woodward Copper. “And my family’s coming out, I haven’t seen them since the Youth Olympics,” Riccomini said. “I’ll be with a bunch of friends. We’ll go ski, have a good time.”
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