Bumpy road to Olympics; Ramos, Cabral, Hernandez gun for World Cup spot | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bumpy road to Olympics; Ramos, Cabral, Hernandez gun for World Cup spot

This is it! No warm-up events to get their feet under them, no room for technical errors and no time to feel nervous.

For Travis Ramos, Chris Hernandez and Travis Cabral, the U.S. Selection Event is the biggest event on the their freestyle skiing calendar. With the Olympics a little more than a year away, the weeklong freestyle skiing event that starts today in Snowbird, Utah, can alter or enhance their 2002 dreams for Salt Lake City.

“The U.S. Ski Team wants to make sure they have the best skiers and they want them to perform under severe pressure situations, and that’s what this event is all about,” Ramos said.

At stake is at least one – and possibly two – spots into World Cup competition in North America. Without the qualifying berth, the local bumpers are relegated to Nor-Am and pro events for the season.

In any other year, the pro events are a decent alternative. Hernandez made a five-figure salary last year as a pro, but the Olympics are the ultimate goal and a World Cup spot is necessary to begin making that dream happen.

“This is the season that can change whether we go to the Olympics or not,” said the 17-year-old Cabral.

Still, neither Cabral or Ramos is showing the pressure at hand. In fact, they exude the confidence of athletes beyond their combined 38 years.

“I haven’t looked past Selections,” said Ramos, who came away with last year’s World Cup spot in the Selection Event. “In the past when we’ve faced the skiers we’re going to face, we’ve proven that it’s not so much that we’re better skiers, but the thing we have over the other guys is confidence.”

Considering the trio’s enviable bump skiing resumes, they may be overqualified for the Selection Event, which includes two singles and two dual events. Ramos won two singles competitions at last year’s Selection at Squaw Valley and was one of the U.S.’s top dual skiers before a torn knee ligament wiped out his 1998-99 season.

“I’ve been known to have a really good start to the season. Every season I’ve come out with my guns blazing louder than anyone else, and that’s good for me confidence-wise going into this Selection Event,” Ramos said.

Cabral, who tied Ramos for first in one of last year’s singles events, won the 1999 national title at a record-breaking age of 15. Hernandez, 22, finished third in the 1998 Olympic qualifier, the Gold Cup, but he too has dealt with a torn ACL before regaining his form last year on the pro circuit.

Hernandez has an edge over his Tahoe buddies in that he competed in the Captain Morgan Freestyle Adventure contest at Winter Park Resort last weekend in Winter Park, Colo. Hernandez finished ninth in singles and tied for fifth in duals. Cabral and Ramos felt more comfortable training at home.

“It comes down to who has worked the hardest during the summer. We’ve trained hard, and I know I’m ready for it,” Cabral said. “Every year the competitors get better and better in any sport, so it becomes a mental competition.”

Cabral, however, missed three weeks of on-the-hill training because of a sprained medial collateral ligament. He tested the knee last Thursday at Squaw Valley and came away from training with renewed confidence.

“It’s a first-time problem with knees and hopefully the last,” Cabral said. “Before I felt iffy about skiing on my knee, because I didn’t know if I was going to reinjure it.”

A rigorous workout regimen at Time Out Health Spa & Fitness and Tahoe Gymnastics has produced a stronger Cabral and a bumper who feels more confident in the jumping department.

“I’m not making the simple mistakes I’ve made in the past like landing airs,” Cabral said.

Ramos has been on a similar workout program, and has isolated several flaws in his skiing technique.

“What I’ve done is help my balance a lot and it helps me go faster, and generally makes everything in my skiing a lot better,” Ramos said. “My whole upper body has improved for the better as far as my turns go.”

Unfortunately, two and perhaps all three South Shore bumpers will come away from the Selection Event disappointed, but they are ready to deal with the consequences.

“We have three pretty tight friends here and unfortunately at least one of us will be watching the World Cup tour from elsewhere,” Ramos said. “It’s a bummer that’s going to happen, but that’s the nature of competition.”

Piped in Cabral, “You always have to have friendship in there, but it’s an individual sport. On top of the course it’s good to have them cheering you on, but it comes down to what you do and they don’t have any control over your run.”

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