U.S Freestyle Ski Team recruiting gymnasts | SummitDaily.com

U.S Freestyle Ski Team recruiting gymnasts

PARK CITY, Utah – The U.S. Freestyle Ski Team is looking to gymnastics as one possible way to maintain its spot in the front ranks of aerials skiing.

The team, which includes 1998 Olympic and “99 World Champion Eric Bergoust and 2002 Olympic medalist Joe Pack, has designed a pair of advertisements which will be rolling out in the nation’s top two gymnastics magazines this summer. The obvious intention: to attract gymnasts who may have outgrown their sport but still might be interested in aiming for the Olympics via skiing.

The ads urge “Come Fly With Us” and stress no previous skiing history is required to learn about aerials at two mini-camps this summer. One will be held July 18-20 in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the other Aug. 14-17 at Utah Olympic Park in Park City.

Jeff Wintersteen, U.S. freestyle head coach, said a trip to China with U.S. aerials skiers earlier this year for a couple of exhibitions convinced him to try the unconventional approach to recruiting potential aerialists.

“You certainly can’t take skiing out of the equation,” he said. “However, we don’t want gymnasts to think they can’t be aerialists if they’ve never skied. We want to introduce them to aerials and show them how exciting it is.”

Wintersteen recalled the impact former gymnasts have had on the U.S. aerials program. Nikki Stone, who turned to freestyle after she grew too tall for gymnastics and eventually retired in 1999, had one of the most glittering careers in aerials – 1998 Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion and World Championships gold and bronze medalist.

Other gymnasts include three-time Olympian and 2002 U.S. aerials champion Tracy Evans and 2001 U.S. champion Emily Cook, who is recovering from a foot injury that knocked her out of the 2002 Olympics. Current U.S. team members Jana Lindsey and Lacy Schnoor joined the U.S. Ski Team a year ago and come from gymnastics backgrounds.

“We have great athletes in this country, we have great coaches, and we need to get more athletes into the program, to realize they can find success in aerials,” Wintersteen said.

“We’re not trying to raid gymnastics, but we hope to educate young gymnasts that there’s clearly a terrific alternative for them when – for whatever reason – their gymnastics career is over. We want them to know there are freestyle programs at clubs across the country and, of course, if they proceed as Nikki and Emily and the others have, they could be in the Olympics as an aerialist.

“Obviously, they need the skiing skills, too, but they could go into a development group and progress from there. We’re not going to change how someone makes the national team – it’s unlikely they’d just go from being a gymnast, even one who skis, to the national team – but when they develop and demonstrate the appropriate ski skills, there’s a great opportunity for them.”

Wintersteen said he was looking to broaden relationships with USA Gymnastics.

“We’d be pretty foolish if we didn’t look a little more deeply into an obvious talent pool.”

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