6 Vail athletes qualify for 2020 Youth Olympic Games
VAIL – The Youth Olympic Winter Games is among the most prestigious snowsports competitions in the world for athletes 18 and younger, and Vail will be well represented in 2020.
Taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, from Jan. 9-22, the Games are a junior version of the real thing, overseen by the International Olympic Committee and featuring a program based on the traditional Olympic Games.
The U.S. earned three spots per gender in Alpine ski racing, where local athletes Nicola Rountree-Williams, Emma Resnick and Trent Pennington will compete.
Snowboarders Jack Coyne and Connor Schlegel qualified, as well, and freeskier Riley Jacobs is now set to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle and big air skiing in Lausanne after a strong performance in a North America Cup event at Copper Mountain in December.
“It’s a big deal. You’re pretty much the top in the U.S. for 18 and under if you qualify for it,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Willis Engelhart said of the Youth Olympic Games. “It’s tough to qualify. You have to be the best at that moment.”
As the home of the modern Olympic movement for more than 100 years, Lausanne is known as the Olympic capital of snowsports, with more than 50 international sporting organizations based in the region.
The Youth Olympic Games’ stated goal is to “inspire the next generation to embody the Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence.”
Competing in the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, Eagle resident Jake Pates said part of the fun of the event was checking out the other winter sports that he doesn’t get to see as often, being a halfpipe snowboarder.
“Hockey, curling, cross-country skiing, all right there in the area,” Pates said.
Pates took gold in both halfpipe and slopestyle, and another local, River Radamus, took gold in super-G, giant slalom and the combined in 2016. That leaves big boots to fill for the crop of locals heading out to the 2020 Games.
“We have a good group of young athletes on our (alpine) team,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Alpine Development Director Chip Knight. “These are all U18 athletes, so it will be the first major international championship event of their careers. They are all really excited to participate, and to compete for medals with the best athletes their age in the world.”
For more information on the Youth Olympic Games, visit http://www.olympic.org/youth-olympic-games