It’s official … Toby’s going
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Toby Dawson wasn’t too worried about qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Moguls Team. But he had a bit of pressure lingering in his head when he thought about the 20 or 30 of his closest friends and family members who had already booked plane tickets and accommodations in Italy. “That part was kind of tough, knowing that everyone put a lot of money on the line. It was kind of on the back of my mind and the biggest source of stress for me. It’s a great feeling knowing that everyone can use their reservations now,” said the 27-year-old Vail local, who qualified for the Games last weekend when he won the World Cup moguls contest in Deer Valley, Utah.At the most, four American men can qualify for the Olympic moguls team. So far, Dawson joins former University of Colorado receiver Jeremy Bloom on the 2006 Olympic team. Bloom secured his spot Dec. 30, 2005, when he won an Olympic qualifier in Steamboat Springs.
“The reason Jeremy and I are so consistent, every weekend in and out, even if we’re not winning, we’re putting down solid runs,” Dawson said from Lake Placid, N.Y., on Tuesday, where he’s training for this weekend’s World Cup events. “It’s thrilling. He’s a great skier. We’re both wonderful skiers. We’re giving the U.S. a great opportunity in getting medals.”Dawson won the first run in Deer Valley and was thus the last competitor down the course for the second run. He threw a 720 spin with a mute (left ski) grab off the first jump and his signature cork (inverted) 7 off the second. Dawson has a habit of skiing backwards into the finish area. Before being told that his run won the contest in Deer Valley, Dawson skied backwards into the fence and accidentally toppled over it and was left laying on the ground staring up at the judges.”I was surprised,” Dawson said, laughing. “Typically, the fences are higher. Maybe I got extra points for that.”
Ready to medalDawson failed to qualify for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. He says he has grown a lot since then, both competitively and emotionally. He won the World Championship dual moguls event last spring just weeks after breaking his foot and has podiumed almost 15 times on the World Cup circuit.”I’m a lot stronger emotionally now,” he said. “I step into the gates and I feel a lot more confident. Of course, you have some jitters. But you learn breathing techniques and tricks how to relax. Four years ago, I was too caught up in making the Olympics. Even though my want and focus were there, maybe it was scattered. I’m very excited to represent the U.S. in the world stadium and to have my family and friends there.”
Dawson has pointed out in the past that as far as competition goes, the Olympics lack the depth of a typical World Cup event because only a percentage of each country’s World Cup team competes in the Games. The only cloud on Dawson’s horizon before the Games, which kick off Feb. 10, is that he will be competing without some of his friends from the U.S. Freestyle Team.”The only thing that will be tough is watching my teammates not go to the Games,” he said. “That may be the toughest thing, that some of the guys you travel with and grow up with won’t be joining you for such a huge event.”Dawson isn’t one to let the hype of big events go to his head or grate on his nerves.”Part of my mental training this season was imagining myself skiing in front of the crowd. It actually gives me more motivation when I think about it,” he said. “It’s going to be so exciting. It’s definitely going to be an experience.”
When asked how likely it is that he’ll come home with a medal next month, there was no pause before the reply.”I might as well not go if that’s not my plan,” Dawson said. “I’m planning on skiing a good run, a podium performance for sure.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado