America may not be your typical sportsfan when it comes to ski competition, but you wouldn't tell if you happened to hit the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup competition over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
The Olympic spirit was in the air Saturday night Jan. 16 as more than 5,000 spectators gathered on the lamplit Deer Valley slopes to catch the bumps and jumps at the 2010 Visa Freestyle International. U.S. Ski Team Alumni and Olympians watched as the present athletes made a strong campaign for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The fans got an epic preview of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, waving American flags and ringing celebratory cowbells. "This is the closest you are going to get to the Olympics unless you are going to Vancouver," said Park City local Brian Richards. "You're seeing world-class athletes competing at the highest level in a great environment. It's festive, it's a party, I mean you gotta come out and enjoy it!"
Energy radiated through the crowd as the competition heated up. Flags from the United States, Australia, and Kazakhstan waved high in the air as the athletes attacked the moguls. But, ultimately it was Canada and Australia topping the podium with the American women taking second and third.
The free event had something for everyone and culminated with a colorful fireworks display. Families, friends, locals, and visitors all made the moonlit trek to the Champion run where the 32 Olympic hopefuls battled it out for their chance to top the podium.
Before heading up the hill to the mogul field, fans had the opportunity to peruse the sample village at Snow Park Lodge. Paul Mitchell passed out free samples of its hottest new products, while fans recorded good-luck messages for the Vancouver-bound athletes at the Sprint tent after filling their pockets with Nature Valley Granola Bars. Once on the hill, fans could check out the newest addition to the Audi line of performance vehicles.
Standing out in the crowd were former U.S. Ski Team athletes and Olympians including Olympic medalists Jonny Moseley, Nikki Stone, Toby Dawson, Donna Weinbrecht, and Eric Bergoust. As the U.S. Freestyle Team competed for viable spots on the 2010 Olympic Team, the alumni watched with memories filling their minds.
The legendary Jonny Moseley, who threw his famous "dinner roll" in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, watched an event that he directly impacted and changed. Moseley was at Deer Valley not only to watch and support the athletes, but also as a TV commentator.
"My primary role is that I am color commentator for NBC for this event, so that's moguls and aerials," said Moseley." I'll be doing that for the Olympics, considering this is an Olympic year and this is an Olympic qualifier."
Weinbrecht is another past Olympic champ who will be behind a microphone in Vancouver, working for Yahoo!Sports. For many of the alumni, like Dawson, the last time they were here was when they were competing. Dawson, now a golf pro in Palm Springs, Calif., was last here in 2006 when he and Michele Roark won to clinch his ticket to the 2006 Torino Games and the bronze medal.
"This is what keeps the sport from disappearing, basically all the alumni coming back and everyone supporting the sport," said Dawson. "That's what keeps the sport alive."
Both Dawson and Stone were also talking up their upcoming books. Stone, who won the 1998 aerials gold, is releasing When Turtles Fly, featuring the secrets of highly successful people. Dawson, meanwhile, is about to release his autobiography, 22 Years in 22 Seconds, the story of his life from a Korean orphan to Olympic medalist.
As the alumni reminisced about their personal experiences, one thing is on their mind: the Olympics. Every four years, athletes like former moguls skier Craig Rodman, compete for one of the coveted spots on the Olympic Team. "It is all your hard work, all your dreams, it's all your efforts, everything coming together and it's a dream come true. It's truly unbelievable as an athlete to compete," said Rodman. "One of my greatest memories is going through the opening ceremonies and Lillehammer. Prior to that, it was somewhat of a festive atmosphere then after opening ceremonies, boom, it was game on."
For the record-breaking crowd, it was a night to remember and a satisfying taste of the Olympic action yet to come.