Let Cameron Hancock assure you | VailDaily.com

Let Cameron Hancock assure you

Ryan Slabaugh

For those who are wary of life changing in fraction of a second, let Cameron Hancock assure you. It took at least 24 seconds for the 48-year-old Avon resident to earn his his third gold medal at this year’s NASTAR National Championships held in Park City, Utah.The first sign something’s different? His phone has rung off the hook all week. He’s fielded questions from Ski Magazine reporters, found out his performance will be televised on the Outdoor Life Network, and saw his name bolded in the April 1 edition of the USA Today.Hancock even had to reassure himself this whole experience wasn’t an April Fools prank. He had to convince himself that the lifetime-skier-turned-snowboarder walked into the biggest recreational ski race in the world a year after knee surgery and walked away No. 1 out of 909 competitors.”I would say that if I was able to achieve what I did, that everyone will see it can happen to them,” Hancock said. “Dreams do come true. And these are dreams I’ve secretly harbored for many years.”Some things haven’t changed. Hancock still works at the Vail Transportation Center and at the Beaver Creek Race Department. He won’t be on Leno anytime soon. But people still recognize him. A father and son, who competed at the Nastar Championships, were vacationing at Beaver Creek and called him by his name.He was wearing the same hat he wore on the podium.”It seemed almost like 10 things needed to happen for Cameron to win and all 10 things happened,” said Hancock, speaking in the third person. “It still hasn’t really set in yet.”While Hancock has battled knee injuries the past few years, it’s those very aches and pains that might have started him on his championship track. Six years ago, his wife (now his ex-wife) instructed snowboarding and convinced him it would be easier on his knees to switch. Combined with advice from his physical therapist, he went to the big board.He used the muscle memory from his youth, spent on the California coast surfing Huntington Beach and water skiing for the competitive club in Long Beach. He injured his shoulder during a watery crash and had to make his first switch – to alpine skiing.He skied competitively on the West Coast until bigger mountains and bigger challenges moved him to the Vail area seven years ago. He had skills, there’s no doubt, but those skills came to fruition only after his latest injury. Last May, he went under the knife. This year, he started racing on his snowboard for the first time.From there, the roads started to converge. He ended up in the shadow of the Olympics held in Park City three months earlier, having former Olympic gold medal winner Tommy Moe placing another gold medal over his neck. Vail’s own Olympian Chad Fleischer presented him the coveted gold jacket<NASTAR’s version of the green jacket in golf.His training was different, unusual, but perfect for NASTAR. The other snowboarders were not accustomed to the thin ski gates, but Hancock was. That’s what he’s used to<having been a skier for so many years.”There were so many skiers that were shaken up that a snowboarder won the whole thing,” he said.Then his old racing suit fell apart. He walked into the office of Schneider Racing’s Franz Fuchsberger<a Vail racing legend<who hooked Hancock up with a suit for the competition. Fuchsberger raced at the national championships as well, and now sponsors Hancock full-time after watching him on top of the podium.He expected little in return.”What I said to him at the end was how much incredible exposure it gave me and Schneider,” said Fuchsberger, who finished third in the men’s open division. “Next year, we’re making him a new suit, custom fit. It will have a logo on the corner saying, “National Nastar Champion.”I was just so pumped up for him” Fuchsberger continued. “He’s such a good competitor. There were phenomenal competitors there, young and old.”Three days of goldHancock wasn’t even supposed to go.Two weeks earlier, he told his co-workers at the Transportation Center that it wasn’t possible. He couldn’t do it. Money and time were in short supply.But his bosses at work helped him out financially. His co-workers insisted he race. He took the trip. Now his friends won’t stop calling him, congratulating him, setting up parties to celebrate.”I’ve got to plug my co-workers,” Hancock said. “WIthout them encouraging me at that time, it would never have happened. I’m still shaken from the whole thing.”He got his board tuned at Performance Sports in Vail. Volkl’s J.J. Jorgenson made a hard-to-find racing snowboard a little less hard on the pocketbook. With the support at home, he left Wednesday, March 28, in his car so he could train Thursday. On Friday, Hancock won his first national championship in the 45-49 year old snowboard category. Saturday, he did it again.”Sunday, we wanted to crown one winner,” NASTAR personal relations director Jeremy Friedman said. “We get all of the gold medalists to compete for one overall trophy, regardless of age, sex, class or ability level.”Hancock was just the third racer down the mountain on Sunday and so it was no big surprise when he came in first. On the podium waited the current leader<a 4-year-old girl.”The people at the bottom told me I had to take the top spot on the podium, but she didn’t want to give it up,” Hancock said. “I told her, “No honey, I want you up there. I’ve never done this before.'”And so he waited. Soon Fuchsberger began to take notice. A couple racers came within 0.05 seconds of his time, but it stood…and stood…and stood…until Fuchsberger began belting out, “You’ve done it! You’ve done it!”He stayed on the podium, received his third gold medal<the national championship trophy<and after it was all over, the 4-year-old girl was there with her parents. He got a picture. They got his autograph.”That was really strange,” he said. “I’ve never, ever, had anyone ask me for my autograph before.”And then he returned to Avon and back to his jobs. Things were just a little different as much as they were the same.He saw his name in a newspaper with a circulation in the millions. He will be quoted in a national ski magazine. He even got a little attention from his hometown newspaper. With all those questions he’s answered and the memories he recycles over and over, there’s still one that makes him shift in his seat.”There’s a thing in my head that says for me to go out on top,” he answers, pondering if he’ll race next year. “But I really do want to race and defend my titles.”

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