Up-and-down Schlopy wins seventh national title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Up-and-down Schlopy wins seventh national title

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer

MAMMOTH LAKES – Erik Schlopy’s resume matches the profile of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

There is the broken back and the four knee surgeries and the nasty crash that ended his 2004 season. Then there are the six national titles in three disciplines, his bronze medal in giant slalom at the 2003 World Championships and his third-place standing in the 2003 GS World Cup standings.

This season has been a microcosm of Schlopy’s career.

He started out the World Cup season with a sixth-place finish in Beaver Creek, Colo., then crashed into a fence going 70 mph soon after in another World Cup race. It shattered his confidence, especially after starting the season with migrating pain in his knees.

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“I think my history of injuries and just not having 100 percent confidence in my body yet (hurt me),” Schlopy said. “That kind of shut the door on my ability to be willing to risk it and you have to be willing to risk it if you want to do well in the World Cup. It was an internal problem. It was like a boxing match with myself.”

Schlopy the confident skier, not the tentative skier, may have won that boxing match on Tuesday at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. His two-race time of 2 minutes, 42.33 seconds in the giant slalom blew away the field at the 2005 U.S. Alpine Championships as he won the seventh national title of his career.

Dane Spencer of Boise, Idaho, took second in 2:44.33 and Washington’s Evan Weiss finished third (2:45.32).

“It was as good as you could expect for the conditions,” Spencer said. “It was very soft. I haven’t skied a lot of GS lately and soft conditions are usually my nemesis. It feels good to put in a good result. It’s good to end on a positive note heading into next season.”

Schlopy, 32, of Park City, Utah, feels the same way. After the Beaver Creek race, he didn’t place in the top-10 again in the World Cup. There were several times after races where he would return to his hotel room and throw his belongings all over the place in frustration. He’s hoping this win at Mammoth is a prelude of what’s to come.

“It was my greatest day of the year by far,” Schlopy said. “I hope today was a little signal for what I can do next year. I needed that going into the summer.

“There were some good skiers here. Bode (Miller) didn’t start, which is too bad because that would’ve been a great way to compare myself because obviously he’s skiing really well.”

Miller, the World Cup overall champion, missed Tuesday’s race because of knee problems.

Truckee’s Daron Rahlves, who won Saturday’s super-G, had a slow first run and even considered not showing up for his second run after his first time run of 1:23.65 didn’t put him in good shape.

“It’s not really worth showing up,” Rahlves said. “I had no idea how these new skis were going to be and it shows just how far out I was. I don’t really want to play the game if I don’t have a chance.”

But Rahlves did return for his second run, finishing with a combined time of 2:47.00 and notching another top-10 finish at nationals. He also placed ninth in Friday’s downhill.

Miller didn’t continue his World Cup success at nationals. He finished eighth in the downhill (1:31.61), third in super-G (1:17.56) and did not score (DNS) in his second race in Sunday’s slalom.

Like Rahlves, Miller was testing out new equipment for next season in Mammoth.

“His knee was bothering him,” Rahlves said of Miller. “The conditions are pretty bad. It could easily get worse in these conditions, so it’s not really worth it.

“I want to keep motivated because I’m testing boots, but it isn’t all that great for that because it’s too soft. I’m trying to find a better set for next season. That’s a big reason why I’m so damn slow.”