Steamboat preps for U.S. Olympic freestyle ski trials
STEAMBOAT – Next week the best freestyle skiers in America will battle each other at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for freestyle skiing, beginning Friday, Dec. 30, in Steamboat Springs. Winners of men’s and women’s moguls and aerials competitions will earn coveted wildcard spots – automatic berths on the 2006 Olympic Team. NBC, the Olympic network, will broadcast all the action the next day – Saturday, Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. While the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team collectively demonstrated team supremacy by winning the Nations’ Cup last season, it will be every athlete for him or herself as teammates become fierce competitors in Steamboat. Moguls qualifying kicks off at 9:30 a.m. on Voo Doo Run at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex, followed by finals at 11:10 a.m. The whole national team is scheduled to compete, including 2005 World Cup overall champion and NFL hopeful Jeremy Bloom (Loveland), 2005 World Championships moguls gold medalist Nate Roberts (Park City, Utah) and Toby Dawson (Vail), who didn’t let a broken foot stop him from reaching the World Cup podium last year.On the women’s side, America’s teenage darling and 2005 moguls world champion Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) will take on veterans like 2002 Olympic silver medalist – and winner of the wildcard spot four years ago – Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, Calif.). Two-time U.S. champion Jillian Vogtli (Ellicottville, N.Y.) and 2003 World Championships silver medalist Michelle Roark (Denver), with her dangerously exciting back-flip “iron cross” (skis crossed while flipping), also will be in action. All these athletes and more will duke it out down a football field-length course of three-foot-high moguls for the title of king and queen of the hill and a trip to Turin, Italy, this February.Freestyle action doesn’t stop there. It continues later that day with the high-flying flipping and twisting of men’s and women’s aerials, who are scheduled to compete in a dramatic night event starting at 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill. Past Olympic medalists Joe Pack (2002 silver) and Eric Bergoust (1998 gold) are hungry to return to the Winter Games, as well. They will be focusing on fending off teammate and 2005 World Cup champion Jeret “Speedy” Peterson and his new jump – the “hurricane” (three flips with five twists) – which is the toughest maneuver in freestyle aerials.The celebration begins in earnest post-competition with a presentation of the winners, the first official members of the 2006 Olympic Freestyle Team, and fireworks display. Then at 9 p.m., Grammy Award winner and multi-platinum recording artist Hootie and the Blowfish will perform live at Steamboat’s Rodeo Arena Rodeo Grounds.
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