History for Bahrke, victory for Roberts in Italy
High-energy Olympic medalist and defending World Cup champion Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, CA) connected Saturday night on the first D-spin (off-axis, double revolution) by a woman in World Cup history in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy to finish in second place.
Moments later, rookie Nate Roberts (Park City, UT) – the only skier performing a back-full flip – earned his first World Cup victory by .04 points, leading American men into three of the top four spots.
U.S. skiers had five men and five women in the 12-skier finals.
“Bahrke lit-up the crowd. It was great,” said coach Liz McIntyre, an Olympic medalist in her own competitive career. “And Nate, moving up from sixth after semis [qualifications], was outstanding, too. It’s a pretty exciting night.”
Roberts, 21 and the current Nor Am dual moguls champion, finished with 25.42 points, edging former Finnish Olympic and World Cup moguls champ Janne Lahtela, who had 25.38 in the final run. Third place went to reigning men’s champion Travis Cabral (South Lake Tahoe, CA), who scored 25.31 on his final run while Ryan Riley (Steamboat Springs, CO) was fourth (25.15).
“I’m so excited. It’s unbelievable,” Roberts – a C Team skier – said, thanking the U.S. staff for making him a discretionary choice to make the trip. “This is only my seventh start, only my second finals. [Friday] was my first.”
In 2002, discretionary pick Jeremy Bloom (Loveland, CO) went to Europe and podiumed and went on to the World Cup moguls title.
Last season, Cabral – also on the C Team at the time – won the season opener and went on to the World Cup crown.
Roberts, who has an aerials background from coaching in the summer at Utah Olympic Park and learning to do flips and twists with the U.S. aerials squad, said he decided to do the back flip on skis because he was having problems with grasping the off-axis D-spin. He fine-tuned it during a training camp in WolfCreek, Colo., in November and is the lone skier, male or female, to attempt the jump.
Competing in the four North American World Cup events last January gave Roberts confidence that he could compete with the best bumps skiers. He tried too hard in Ruka, Finland, at the start of the month, but a training camp in Tignes, France, renewed his confidence – and his performances Friday and Saturday night, under the lights, bolstered his confidence even further.
“[Friday] I did the same thing – a back iron cross [flip with arms and legs extended off the top jump] and back full [flip and twist] and I said “I’ve got to qualify better and put myself in a better position,”’ said Roberts.
Bahrke, meanwhile, ran into another tough performance from Norway’s Kari Traa, who won with 25.03. Bahrke, who leaped forward from eighth in qualification, was second at 24.50 with Laurel Shanley (Squaw Valley, CA) in fourth place (23.72).
“I just screamed,” said Bahrke, after completing her D-spin at the bottom of her run. “I don”t think I’ve ever screamed like that. I was so excited.
“It was something I was working hard on all summer. It was cool Liz had the faith in me to let me do it. I knew something good was gonna happen today. I was really excited to throw it.”
She added, “I didn’t even know I was gonna throw it until Liz said, “What do you think about the D-spin?’ I threw it and landed on my back [in practice between rounds], threw it again and each one got better and better. I think I’m gonna stick with it and just go bigger and bigger.”
Vail’s Toby Dawson finished in 10th place with a score of 21.23, while Bloom ended up 12th.
The World Cup tour returns to North America for its annual four-stop visit. Action resumes Jan. 10-11 in Mont Tremblant, Que.; visits Lake Placid, N.Y., Jan. 16-18; moves on to Fernie, B.C., Jan. 24-25; and finishes Jan. 30-31 at Deer Valley, Utah, the Olympic freestyle venue and site of the 2003 World Championships.
Levy finishes fourth in Park City
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Ali Levy, the newest member of the U.S. Women’s Freestyle Team notched a set of fourth-place victories in Nor Am Cup singles moguls competition in Park City, Utah, Tuesday and Friday.
“The last two weeks, she has skied 13 competition runs, and she’s just been really consistent,” said Brian Baker, head moguls coach of SSCV. “She’s just really been on a roll. She’s really starting to believe.”
Levy, who earned her spot on the C Team at the U.S. Freestyle selection events in Park City two weeks ago, was back in Vail on Saturday training after her successful stint in Utah.
“I think part of it is making the team,” said Baker, in regards to Levy’s stellar skiing this past week. “With that comes a certain amount of belief in her skills, more than anything.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.