Vail’s Dawson takes bronze in moguls
SAUZE D’OULX – Toby Dawson wants to take back what he said about the Olympics being just another competition.
Dawson promptly changed his tune as he stood at the top of the Olympic men’s moguls course in Sauze d’Oulx, Italy, on Wednesday.
“I was wrong, I was so wrong,” Dawson said of the Olympics being just like a World Cup event. “I was in the starting gate for my first run and just about threw up I was so nervous.”
The 27-year-old from Vail held it together for a bronze medal, finishing his final run amidst chants of “Toby, Toby” from his sizeable entourage.
Dawson threw an off-axis 720 with a mute (left ski) grab off the first jump and a cork (diagonal inverted move) 720 with a grab off the second jump and finished third behind Australian gold medalist Dale Begg-Smith and Finnish silver medalist Mikko Ronkainen.
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“I knew so many people had spent so much money coming out here to watch me and I didn’t want to mess up,” Dawson said.
One distinctive component to Dawson’s typical performance is the fact that he incorporates grabs into both of his airs. While Begg-Smith threw a back flip with crossed skis off his first hit and a 720 off-axis cross off the second and Ronkainen put down a 720 double helicopter and a 720 inverted cross, neither grabbed their skis.
“Well, it’s not easy,” said U.S. moguls coach Jeff Wintersteen about throwing grabs. “Toby has a tremendous amount of touch, which we all saw tonight.”
Dawson’s touch is a thing of his own making. Often choosing to train alone rather than with his U.S. Team and calling his own tricks has all been part of Dawson’s long-running habit of doing everything his own way. Even before his final run, his coaches urged him to take a faster, outside line down the course, but Dawson felt the inside line he chose suited him better.
“I chose that line because it flashed my skiing style more,” Dawson said. “Not many people could ski that line and as it turned out, nobody else tried it.”
In moguls skiing, 50 percent of judging is based on turns and line, 25 percent on speed and 25 percent on airs.
Dawson ended up with a score of 26.30 points, behind Ronkainen’s 26.62 and Begg-Smith’s 26.77. Both Dawson and Ronkainen made it down faster than Begg-Smith, but Dawson alone did it down the middle line.
“He’s an individualist,” Wintersteen said. “He wanted to stick to that line. We kept nudging him and he stuck to his guns and he proved right.”
Some judges don’t like to see two off-axis airs in one run. Others dock points for Dawson’s distinctive way of carving around the bumps. Being an individualist hasn’t always gone over well for Dawson in his sport.
“Absolutely not,” he agreed. “It usually doesn’t. I just bite the bullet and ski it because I love it. I enjoy the sport so much, I want to bring it to a new level.”
A new level is where Dawson and his family found themselves after his Olympic medal Wednesday night. In no time flat, the eight-year U.S. Ski Team phenom who was always overshadowed by teammate Jeremy Bloom (who finished sixth Wednesday), found himself and his life story being newly discovered and picked apart by half of America’s sports journalists.
Dawson was born in South Korea and was adopted when he was 3 years old by a pair of Vail ski instructors. The couple also adopted another boy – Toby’s younger brother, KC. In his extensive skiing career, Dawson has made time every summer to work at the Korean Heritage Camp for Adopted Families and has tried to popularize freestyle skiing in South Korea.
Several people asked Dawson Wednesday if he’s interested in finding his biological parents. Dawson said he was and has some people searching, but wanted to wait until after the Games for news of any developments.
The mother that Dawson has always known, Deborah Dawson, found herself surrounded by microphones Wednesday and said that the minute that Toby came into her life 24 years ago was not unlike the moment in which he won an Olympic medal.
“I was thrilled,” she said. “It felt like … well, like now. I was thrilled and it felt like it feels
As a small boy, Dawson quickly acclimated to the mountain lifestyle in Vail. He enrolled in several sports, began jumping on the trampoline and thus developed his acrobatic skills. He began skiing at 4 with little in the way of boundaries.
“I never said to him, ‘Oh, slow down,’ or ‘Oh, don’t go there,'” Dawson’s mother said. “I never pushed him. He just was crazy all the time. I wasn’t that kind of mother to put the clamp down. I think that allowed everything that was in him to just go.”
Just going has been something Dawson was considering bringing to an end earlier this season. Last fall, Dawson said he would possibly retire to a life of another sport he loves – golf – at the end of this season.
Now he’s not so sure.
“No idea,” he said about quitting competition, beaming at the crowd Wednesday night after the flower ceremony. “It’s so hard to say after you get a medal.”