LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – For those following local athletes with potential to go to the Olympics, “How are Heidi Kloser’s chances?” has been one of the big questions of the season.
And after Wednesday, “better than everyone she’s competing against” is the answer.
The Vail native skied a fast run with a huge “back X” trick on the Lake Placid, N.Y., moguls course on Wednesday to find her way onto the podium with a silver, her best World Cup moguls result and the second podium of her young career.
“I’m really happy with this result,” Kloser said. “It feels good to be on the podium.”
Her coach, U.S. Freestyle Ski Team World Cup mogul coach Garth Hager, said by the time he saw Kloser’s third run and final run on the day, he wasn’t surprised by the result.
“She was faster than all the other ladies,” Hager said. “And in her semifinal run she was a little out of control, a little bit over the edge, so she knew by finals that all she had to do was go that same speed with a taller position over her toes and she’d be fine.”
Moguls competitions are scored 25 percent on speed and the rest on judging — 25 percent air and 50 percent turns.
Kloser’s best score for air came on her second run.
“Her first jump was one of the biggest X’s that I’ve ever seen her do,” Hager said.
Justine Dufour-Lapointe, of Canada, was first.
Kloser’s teammate Hanna Kearney, the gold-medal winner at the 2010 Olympics, led the first two rounds of competition Wednesday, but she bobbled a turn on her final run and finished third on the day.
Kearney is the only female moguls skier to have secured herself a spot on the Olympic team by meeting the minimum objective qualification criteria of two World Cup podiums this season.
Heading into the final World Cup event before the Olympics — set to take place Sunday in Val Saint-Ceme, Quebec — Kloser is the only other woman on the team with a shot at the objective bid. The remaining three (or four, depending on what happens in other freestyle disciplines) spots will be chosen at the coaches’ discretion.
When asked about that choice, Hager said Kloser is starting to look like a good option for one of the discretionary spots if she doesn’t make the objective criteria.
“She has two high results, a second and a fifth ... and she’s also ranked fifth in the world, so that helps too,” Hager said.
The fine line between third and fourth has made the difference between Kloser and many other girls heading into Sunday. As Kloser has hit the podium once and has a shot at the objective bid, three other women on the team have had fourth-place finishes this season.
“But they haven’t hit the podium, so that helps Heidi’s case,” Hager said.
Following her season from their home in Vail, Heidi’s parents — Mike and Emily Kloser — were among the first to hear the news of Heidi’s silver-medal performance.
“We’re so excited for her,” Mike Kloser said on Wednesday. “We can’t say enough about the dedication and hard work she’s put in to get there. For the last four years and especially this year, everything she did was focused around trying to prepare and hopefully qualify for an Olympic spot.”
Mike Kloser himself is a top-level competitor as a five-time adventure racing world champion, and Hager said the competitive drive has passed on to Heidi, as well.
“She ups her game for the competition runs,” Hager said. “She can have so-so training, and then all of a sudden she shows up for the comp and takes it to the next level.”
After Sunday’s World Cup there will be a much clearer picture of who will be traveling to Sochi, but U.S. freestyle team will probably not know until Tuesday if they take three or four moguls skiers to the Games, Hager said.