Roberts, with back flip, gets first World Cup mogul win; Bahrke second


Roberts, with back flip, gets first World Cup mogul win; Bahrke second{mosimage}USSA — High-energy Olympic medalist and defending World Cup champion Shannon Bahrke connected Saturday night on the first D-spin (off-axis, double revolution) by a woman in World Cup history. Moments later, rookie Nate Roberts — the only skier performing a back-full flip — earned his first World Cup victory by 0.04 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, finished with 25.42 points, edging former Finnish Olympic, world 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, who scored 25.31 on his final run while Ryan Riley — Roberts’ roommate in Madonna — was fourth (25.15).

“I’m so excited. It’s unbelievable,” said Roberts, a C Team skier, 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” as he finished fifth behind Lahtela. In 2002, discretionary pick Jeremy Bloom went to Europe, visited the podium and went on to the World Cup moguls title; last season, Cabral — also on the C Team at the time — was the discretionary pick, won the season opener and went on to the World Cup crown.

“I appreciate what the coaches did,” said Roberts, “having so much faith in me, giving me the chance.” Said McIntyre, “He showed us time and time again we wouldn’t be going wrong by giving Nate the opportunity.”

Roberts, who has an aerials background from coaching in 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 Wolf Creek, Colorado, 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, he said, but a training camp in Tignes, France, renewed his confidence — and his performances Friday and Saturday nights, 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,” he said. Qualifying sixth moved him into perfect position to grab his first win.

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 American Laurel Shanley in fourth place (23.72).

After completing her D-spin at the bottom of her run, Bahrke said, “I just screamed. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed like that. I was so-o-o 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 saved the historic moment for her final run, she said, after clicking on it in practice following the qualification run. “It was funny because right after training, I was in the start gate and I’m saying, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go.’ I was excited I went fairly early [skiing fifth in the inverted order from the qualification round] so I didn’t have to wait longer.”

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, and throw it better and better.”

The World Cup tour returns to North America for its annual four-stop visit. Action resumes January 10-11 in Mont Tremblant, Quebec; visits Lake Placid, New York, January 16-18; moves on to Fernie, British Columbia, January 24-25; and finishes January 30-31 at Deer Valley, Utah, the Olympic freestyle venue and site of the 2003 World Championships.

FREESTYLE WORLD CUP
Madonna di Campiglio, ITA Dec. 20
Moguls (Night event; 12 make finals)
Men

1. Nate Roberts Park City, Utah, 25.42 points
2. Janne Lahtela, Finland, 25.38
3. Travis Cabral, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 25.31
4. Ryan Riley, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 25.15
5. Tapio Luusua, Finland, 24.94
Other U.S. skiers in finals:
10. Toby Dawson, Vail, Colo., 21.23
12. Jeremy Bloom, Loveland, Colo., 0.45

Women
1. Kari Traa, Norway, 25.03
2. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif., 24.50
3. Stephanie St. Pierre, Canada, 23.76
4. Laurel Shanley, Squaw Valley, Calif., 23.72
5. Jennifer Heil, Canada, 23.67
Other U.S. skiers in finals:
7. Emiko Torito, Denver, 22.87
9. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y., 22.65
12. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt., 13.50

Canadians sweep frigid moguls at Tremblant; Bahrke third, Westerlund secondBahrke second, Dawson third in night mogul event at Madonna

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