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Steamboat Magazine

In Pursuit of PyeongChang: Steamboat Olympic Hopefuls Of The World

01/31/2018 03:16PM ● By Alesha Damerville

Image from U.S. Ski and Snowboard

By Dan Greeson and Zach Taylor

For Steamboat Springs, the Olympics are personal. If you live here, you have probably met an Olympian. If you ski here, you’ve most likely taken a run with Billy Kidd.

And if you grow up here? If your parents strapped skis to your two-year-old feet or if they moved here so you could train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club?
You know in your heart of hearts that it is a long, long shot, but someday, you could be wearing Olympic gold.

At 89 Olympians and counting, the question is: who will be the next skier or rider to represent Steamboat on this international stage?

Steamboat Magazine, in conjunction with the Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and a host of community members, has identified 33 athletes who have world-caliber potential.  Meet the stars of
Ski Town USA.

Born and Raised

Steamboat Springs is Ski Town USA. Here, for young skiers and riders, all things are possible.

“The population of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is 1,700,” wrote a reporter for the Associated Press in 1947. “The number of persons who ski is reported to be 1,685. The others are children under one year of age. 

Just as soon as their walking legs are under them, they’ll be strapped to a pair of hickory staves and away they will go…” Perhaps all the way to PyeongChang.

Image from U.S. Ski and Snowboard

**Jasper Good, 21, Nordic Combined

What’s the best advice your coach has given you?

The idea that a lot of athletes tend to focus and work on strengths, and in order to really improve you have to focus on weaknesses, which seems obvious, but it’s actually quite hard to spend time working on weaknesses. It’s not as fun to make improvements on those at first.

Image from U.S. Ski and Snowboard


**Ben Berend, 22, Nordic Combined 

Are you glad you began your training in Steamboat and not somewhere else? 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean when you look at my teammates, the majority of our team is from Steamboat, and that just goes to show that growing up training here is awesome. I kind of wish I didn’t, because growing up here has made everywhere else just seem worse. Like, other places are good, but they’re not Steamboat. It’s a blessing and a curse.

**Grant Andrews, 20, Nordic Combined

Have you ever jumped so far it scared you?

Yeah, I have, but in hindsight it was just because I had never experienced going that far. I can go far and not get nervous, but if I’m going past hillside I still get nervous and get butterflies, because it’s not every day you do that. But it’s amazing. You’re not so much afraid, but you get the adrenaline rush going.

**Mick Dierdorff, 26, Boardercross

What do you do if someone falls during competition?

It pretty much happens every race, and I’ve been that person to fall plenty of times, too. That’s kind of the nature of the sport. You may be questioning a feature on a course – whether it’s safe or not – and you watch people go and detonate and you realize it’s not working out and something needs to change there. You’re riding next to people going 50 miles per hour sometimes. People can catch an edge and fly into you, or into the net. In the past, I was a lot more nervous, but it’s not something I really think about anymore. If you’re scared out there, you’re not gonna be fast. But you gotta be a little scared to keep yourself in control. It’s just a full adrenaline sport.

Under Another Flag

Steamboat Springs’ reputation spreads far beyond America’s borders. Wintersports athletes from around the world have heard about the city’s record number of Olympic alumni, and they move here to train on the heralded slopes of Howelsen Hill and the Steamboat Ski Area. It doesn’t hurt that Steamboat’s winter coincides nicely with summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which makes it easy for skiers and riders to train on snow year-round. And occasionally, when they go home, it’s as the proud bearers of their native country’s Olympic flag.

**Czech Republic - Ester Ledecká, 22, Alpine Snowboarding/Alpine Skiing

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Ester Ledecká took up skiing at age four, later added snowboarding to her repertoire, and has made a name for herself as one of the top Czech athletes to watch in the upcoming Winter Games. She was the first Czech to win the parallel giant snowboard slalom at the FIS Snowboard World Cup and won two gold medals at the 2013 Junior World Snowboard Championships. Ledecká missed qualifying for the Alpine skiing team by one spot at the Olympics in Sochi, but still competed in the parallel giant slalom event and finished seventh overall. In PyeongChang, she hopes to be the first athlete ever in Olympic history to compete in both skiing and snowboarding at the same Winter Games.


**Russia - Vic Wild, 31, Alpine Snowboarding

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Wild used to compete for the U.S., but opted to leave for Russia with his Russian snowboarder wife, Alena Zavarzina, after the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association shut down its Alpine snowboarding program in 2010. Since then, Wild has become one of the top names in Alpine snowboarding, winning two gold medals when he competed for Russia at the 2014 Games in Sochi. Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics due to state-sponsored doping, but Russian athletes are still permitted to compete under a neutral Olympic flag –  there’s still a possibility that Wild will shine again on the slopes of PyeongChang.

**Australia - Jarryd Hughes, 22, Boardercross

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Jarryd Hughes burst onto the boardercross scene in 2012 when he was just 16, placing 10th at the Stoneham World Cup in Quebec, Canada. In the six years since then, he has snagged a king’s bounty of accomplishments in his sport, winning gold and silver medals at the FIS Junior World Championships, winning the 2013 Lake Louise World Cup, representing Australia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and winning gold at the 2016 X-Games. A boardercross prodigy, he holds the record of being the youngest athlete in his sport to be number one in the world. Hughes sustained a knee injury last year and underwent several surgeries, but appears to be fully recovered, winning his second World Cup in Austria in December 2017.


Portugal - Christian DeOliveira, 18, Alpine Snowboarding

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Steamboat Mountain School

DeOliveira, an Australian-born snowboarder who represents Portugal in international competition, is hoping to be the first snowboarder to represent Portugal at the Winter Games. He won the Race for the Cup event, held at Howelsen Hill in December, but still looks to place higher than 30th in a World Cup event in order to qualify for the Olympics. Portugal’s presence at the Winter Games is rapidly growing: in Sochi, the country only had two athletes, but it now has 11 preparing for PyeongChang.

**Australia - Belle Brockhoff, 25, Boardercross

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Belle Brockhoff represented Australia at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and at the FIS Snowboarding World Championships. Just before heading to Sochi in 2014, Brockhoff drew a great deal of attention when she came out as a lesbian and publicly supported the Principle 6 Campaign: a group of Olympians who protested Russia’s anti-gay laws. Nearing the Olympics in PyeongChang, Brockhoff ruptured her ACL during the Boardercross World Cup in Austria, but she hadn’t ruled herself out as of press time.


Australia – Millie Bongiorno, 20, Alpine Snowboarding

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

Though she calls Australia home, Bongiorno spends about six months each year in the Yampa Valley training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She won first place in the parallel giant slalom at the December 2017 Race to the Cup event on Howelsen Hill, taking an important step toward qualifying for the 2018 Winter Games.

**Participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang