In Pursuit of PyeongChang: Rising Stars and Faces of Adversity
By Alesha Damerville
Image from U.S. Ski and Snowboard
By Dan Greeson and Zach Taylor
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.
The timing has to be just right for athletes to come into their prime in perfect sync with the Olympics’ four-year cycle. A handful of Steamboat competitors are on a winning roll, with the Winter Games coming just into view. For some, 2014 was just a little too soon, or was a season plagued with injuries and near-misses. But this time, if things go their way, 2018 will be their year. On the outside, four years go by quickly, but for the rising stars of winter sports, this day has been forever in arriving.
Adam Loomis, 25, Nordic Combined
Which do you enjoy more: ski jumping or cross-country skiing?
I would say that nothing beats the feeling of a really good jump, but ski jumping is more of a struggle than cross-country. There are more ups and downs mentally. It’s more like a golf swing.
*Nita Englund, 25, Ski Jumping
What would it mean to you to qualify and compete in the 2018 Olympics?
It would be huge – a lifetime of work and lots of sacrifice from my family. It means a lot as a marker to my progress as a ski jumper. We compete in the World Cup and it’s the same group of girls, but the Olympics is still something unique.
*Jaelin Kauf, 21, Moguls
Who is your role model?
My mom (Patti Sherman-Kauf). We grew up watching her compete. We’d always go and watch her at the X-Games. I got to stand on the podium with her; it was the coolest experience and she’s really passionate about sports and about women’s sports as well. And that’s just something I admire and look up to. The amount she’s been able to accomplish is admirable and I’d love to be like her.
Converse Fields, 27, Alpine
Do you ever train at Howelsen?
It’s actually one of the best places anywhere to train. It’s really fun, it’s got a nice atmosphere, and it’s steep. And that Poma lift is amazing.
*Rosie Mancari, 23, Boardercross
What was it like coming from Alaska to train in Steamboat at the Winter Sports Club?
Coming to Steamboat from Alaska was a huge opportunity for me. When I was 17, I decided I wanted to train more full-time and that Steamboat was the place that offered me what I was looking for. The transition was very easy.
I lived with a lovely host family, took the city bus everywhere, and the club offered everything else I could need, especially being so young and away from family.
Brant Crossan, 25, Ski Cross
What sets ski cross apart from other skiing disciplines?
Head-to-head racing is very immediate. You know how you’re doing halfway through the race. If you’re winning you really know you’re winning, and if you’re losing you really know you’re losing. There’s jumps and bumps, and it’s like a giant playground and you get to race against your buddies. It reminds me of back in SSWSC when we’d all go down the hill at the same time.
In the Face of Adversity
What makes you get back up when you are down? When the doctors say you may never walk, let alone ride a snowboard? When they tell your parents you may not live to see your next birthday? When you are out cold on the ground, blood seeping from your mouth and nose? Any athlete who makes an entrance onto the world scene has a story of determination, trial and tribulation. But for a handful of Steamboat competitors, the hard work of getting to the gold is only the most recent chapter in a life that could so easily have been filled only with hospitals, pain and tragedy. This is their story.
Maggie Carrigan, 21, Alpine Snowboarding
What is the hardest sacrifice you’ve had to make in your sport?
When I was eleven I had scoliosis, so I had to get scoliosis surgery. I used to do boardercross and I wanted to be on the Olympic team for boardercross, but the surgery put a huge hurdle in my way. But then I changed sports and was able to accomplish getting over that. I still have problems with it today because my spine is kind of fused together. But yeah, they told me I could never compete again because jumps are really dangerous for me, but staying on the ground and racing was OK. I kind of found a loophole to do what I love, which is to go fast.
Hig Roberts, 26, Alpine Skiing
Roberts took an unconventional path to the U.S. Ski Team, choosing to get a degree in economics while continuing to train. His younger brother, Murphy, passed away in 2016 at the age of 22, but Roberts is still pushing for PyeongChang.
Are there specific things you miss the most about home when you’re traveling?
Steamboat is the reason why it’s hard to travel. It’s so special to me for so many reasons, and it’s where my family is. I lost my little brother last summer, and he loved Steamboat so much. I’m super appreciative of my community because when you grow up competing with the Winter Sports Club you kind of feel like you’re stepping into a history book: there’s kids training everywhere with the lights of town below them.
Ryan Dyer, 26, Moguls
Dyer made the U.S. Ski Team in 2010, but a series of injuries, one of which left him literally coughing up blood, impeded his progress as an athlete. Dyer proved to be resilient mentally and physically, and is poised to make a splash in 2018.
What are you known for?
I’m probably known for up and down seasons (laughs). I’m definitely a really good jumper and dual skier. That’s something I pride myself on. I’ve had some really good seasons as an aspiring athlete and Olympian, and then there have been some seasons where I battle injuries and just can’t get the ball rolling. I want to work on consistency. I’d say I’m known for jumping, speed and a roller coaster career. I’m just along for the ride.
Avital Shimko, 21, Moguls
At age 14, Shimko qualified for the Junior World Championships in Finland, but under-rotated a backflip during a warmup just minutes before the competition, landing hard and tearing her spleen. She battled back, regained her confidence and is poised to make a run for the 2018 Winter Games.
How have your parents influenced your training and mental state?
My mom has been super-supportive the entire way and encouraging. I tried to quit senior year and she told me to keep going and that I had more to give to the sport.
**Participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang