VAIL — Competing against each other for a spot on the freestyle skiing Olympic team, Vail residents Heidi Kloser and Annalisa Drew received good news Tuesday. They’re both headed to Sochi, Russia.
America’s freestyle skiing team consists of 26 male and female athletes spread across five disciplines — moguls, aerials, ski cross, slopestyle and halfpipe. Drew, a halfpipe skier, and Kloser, a moguls skier, are both part of disciplines sending four women to the games. Other disciplines didn’t fare as well — three athletes total from aerials and only one from ski cross will be headed to Sochi.
Todd Schirman, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s freestyle program director, said while some disciplines are sending less athletes to the games than in previous years, the good news is everyone on the team has a decent shot at a medal in Sochi.
“Our moguls program is currently the No. 1 program in the world, and so is the (halfpipe and slopestyle) program, and we’re lucky enough to also have one of the No. 1 athletes in the world come with ski cross,” Schirman said. “The criteria was built to make sure we had the best athletes, and everyone on this team has podium potential.”
SKI & SNOWBOARD CLUB VAIL
Kloser and Drew both came through Ski & Snowboard Club Vail programs en route to the Olympics.
Kloser said those early days competing for the club and trying to make the U.S. Ski Team helped prepare her for the pressure she faced in qualifying for Sochi.
“When I made the team at U.S. selections it was a very similar situation. There’s a lot of pressure on those two-day events and it’s early season, too, so you have to be on your game, and that really helped me prepare for that for this year,” she said.
For Drew, joining the club two years ago was a life-changing moment.
“My runs have been getting better and better every time I compete,” she said.
Drew was here at her apartment in Vail when she received the word that she made the team. She immediately called her mom back home in Massachusetts.
Lisa Drew, Annalisa’s mom, said regardless of Sochi, coach Elana Chase’s freeski program and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail was the best thing that ever happened to her daughter.
“I was just saying yesterday, even if (Annalisa) doesn’t get that spot, she’s a totally different person and a great skier,” Lisa Drew said. “It was the best fit for her and I would do it again and again and again even if we didn’t get picked.”
Chase said Drew is a special athlete.
“She’s a determined competitor, and she worked her butt off this season,” Chase said.
Both Annalisa Drew and Heidi Kloser said they weren’t totally surprised to be named, just relieved.
“It’s a relief, but it’s also way more excitement,” Kloser said.
“I wasn’t really surprised, I had the points, but you don’t know what’s going to happen with the discretionary choices. I kind of thought they might take Devin Logan for more of a story, with her being both a great slopestyle and great pipe athlete. But I’m glad they decided to take a chance on me,” Drew said.
This year, Annalisa Drew did not receive an invite to X Games, which only invites eight halfpipe women to Aspen to compete.
“It’d be cool if next year they did 12 or 16 girls, like they do for guys,” Drew said. “But I’m OK with it.”
So for the next few days, Drew wont’ be competing, but she’ll still head out to Aspen to watch the competition before heading to Sochi.
Kloser will spend a few days home in Vail before heading to Steamboat for a training camp, and then on to Sochi.
“The criteria was built to make sure we had the best athletes, and everyone on this team has podium potential.”
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association freestyle program director