Vail athlete wins Japan’s mogul championships
So Matsuda arrived in Vail last fall with a goal in mind: to win a gold medal at the 2022 Olympics.
To get there, he’ll have to make the Olympic team in Japan, which won’t be easy. The stacked Japanese team qualified four athletes — the maximum amount — into the 2018 Olympics, with all of those athletes finishing in the top 20 and one on the podium.
Aware of the difficult task ahead of him, Matsuda looked to the sport of moguls skiing for the underdog, the competitor who had the most unlikely path to the Olympics in 2018. He found Casey Andringa.
Andringa began the 2017-18 season as an outsider who had not been named to the U.S. Team. He did not have any World Cup starts locked in for that next season, and since World Cup competitions were going to double as Olympic team qualifiers, Andringa had very little chance at making the Olympic team.
Back-to-back wins at the one event where he did have an invite, however lead to a World Cup start or two for Andringa, which lead to more World Cup starts.
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Andringa capitalized on the one chance he did have, and ended up making the Olympic team.
The story reached So Matsuda in Japan, who was 18 years old at the time, and Matsuda had a thought: If the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail program could help Andringa reach the top level of competition, perhaps it could help him, as well.
“I believe the Vail team is the best in the world,” Matsuda said.
Matsuda joined Ski & Snowboard Club Vail full time in the fall of 2018. He lived with a host family of another athlete in the program who called Matsuda an inspiring figure to watch.
Matsuda was a man on a mission, competing in the North America Cup with a goal of winning, earning World Cup starts and making the Japanese national team.
Winning the North America Cup guarantees a competitor World Cup starts the following season.
Matsuda started the season strong, winning the dual moguls event at the U.S. selections series in December.
He went on to notch four podiums in North America Cup competitions, two of them wins, securing the tour overall victory with enough time to make it back home for the Japanese national championships in March.
A WIN AT HOME
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Coach Riley Campbell said Matsuda was a pleasure to work with this season.
“He was very goal orientated,” Campbell said. “With that top goal always being a gold medal.”
Campbell said Matsuda was likely to make his national team in Japan, where he will receive valuable coaching and funding on his quest to the 2022 Olympics. As a final cherry on top of a good season, however, a solid performance at the Japanese National Championships was always a goal that would helping Matsuda secure his spot on the team which — along with the World Cup start he earned — will be the next major step he will need to take on his road to the Beijing Olympics.
On March 16, Matsuda won the Japanese National Championships.
In a sport that’s judged as well as timed, “His abilities were not lost in translation,” noted Geoff Mintz with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. “Thinking about So will bring a smile to the face of many around here for some time to come.”
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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.