Team Summit’s Walker Robinson dominates Rocky Mountain region skicross circuit
Team Summit skicross up-and-comer Walker Robinson made an undefeated statement this season on the Rocky Mountain circuit.
The 14-year-old won each competition he entered, earning him a national championship in a year when the annual USA Snowboard and Freeski Association didn’t host an event in response to COVID-19. His winning streak culminated with a skicross victory last weekend at Copper Mountain Resort while racing against some of the nation’s best competitors his age from the Rocky Mountain region, Maine and California.
“Walker is a competitor who wants to win,” Team Summit skicross head coach Leah Emaus said. “He gets in the gate, and he definitely is thinking, ‘How do I win this race? What do I have to do? What is my start going to be? How am I going to take the first turn?’”
The 2020-21 season transitioned from a time-trial format to more traditional race heats and rounds later in winter. As the season navigated pandemic restrictions, Robinson devoted his days to the state-of-the-art Copper skicross venue. His focus was to continue his winning ways and momentum from the shortened 2020 season.
At the end of that season, Robinson said he was looking forward to competing against the nation’s best in the 13- to 14-year-old division at 2020 USASA Nationals at Copper. But with the annual end-of-season event canceled due to COVID-19, Robinson was fueled to come back strong this season.
“I was kind of just like, ‘Uh, what should I do?’” Robinson said. “But we just skipped that and moved on. We couldn’t really do anything about it. So I started training harder for this year and was able to really focus on myself and my skiing.”
Robinson’s skiing benefited from Emaus’ coaching in her first year with Team Summit. Emaus brought with her experience racing for the U.S. National Ski Cross Team and competing in U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup events throughout her career, including two national championships and multiple World Cup podiums.
Once Emaus began working with Robinson, she recognized his hybrid background and skills from Alpine ski racing and freestyle. She took Robinson’s Alpine carving skills and helped him transition to smaller radius skicross skis. The duo also focused on ideal form while throttling through the skicross course, such as hip movement and body positioning. With Robinson’s adept air awareness, jumping and ability to ski a variety of terrain, Emaus said the tweaks helped him maximize his potential.
“Skicross incorporates all of that — the racing aspect of carving a ski, the moving aspect of through gates and rollers and jumps,” Emaus said.
The coach said Robinson’s ability to use repetition to improve his skills turning on skicross-specific banks at Copper accelerated his technique training. Robinson was driven to improve this year after seeing the level of Revolution Tour competition at a step-up event at Ski Cooper when he was 13. The open-class field of racers with World Cup experience opened Robinson’s eyes to what the levels after USASA look and feel like.
“I saw a big difference in carving and strength,” Robinson said. “That was the point I needed to take it more seriously. … I got in the gate, and there were people 6-3, 6-4, 225 pounds. And I’m 5-8, 115 pounds.”
With his eyes on competing on the Rev Tour and NorAm racing levels, Robinson said he would like to focus some more on Alpine training as well as weightlifting to get his body and skiing stronger concurrently. Those improvements will help him to hold his own on the Audi Ski Cross Tour U-16 event in Switzerland, which would be another opportunity for Robinson to break through against other hungry young racers with Olympic dreams.
“It’s a cool event that focuses on the development of athletes aspiring to get to the World Cup,” Emaus said. “It allows them to showcase their skills on a similar course to the World Cup.”
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