Cabral dealing with newfound fame |

Cabral dealing with newfound fame

Column by Steve Yingling

Ready or not, fame intruded into the neat and orderly life of Travis Cabral this past weekend.

The quiet and polite 15-year-old from South Lake Tahoe shocked the United States Freestyle Team by annilating it at the Chevy Truck U.S. Championships Saturday in Deer Valley, Utah.

Afterward, Cabral learned that a lot more is expected out of a champion than climbing atop a podium and collecting a medal and flowers. Kids demanded autographs, parents coveted pictures with their kids, media representatives requested interviews – with some even calling past midnight while he was asleep.

Such is the glamor of going from unknown to the U.S.’s best freestyle skier in one weekend.

“I had tons of people coming up to me and a bunch of little kids coming up to me wanting autographs. It was a little frustrating at first, but I decided I was having fun, so I might as well try my hardest to do all of it,” said Cabral, who estimated he signed nearly 100 autographs. “It was pretty neat looking around the (media room) and having a bunch of people around me. Once I thought about it, I just tried to say the right things.”

Better that Cabral learn how to deal with celebrity now than wait until the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City when he’ll need every bit of focus to realize his dream of winning a gold medal.

“The team has been telling me that I better get used to the attention, so I guess I better hurry up and get used to it,” said Cabral, who received $2,500 for his victory.

Of course, Cabral only needs to look across Lake Tahoe and take note on how to conduct himself with fans and the media. Jonny Moseley is the sport’s premier role model. With a genuine smile, his idle chit-chat and a few words of encouragement wins over most fans. And an understanding that the media is the easiest way to reach his fans and sponsors serves Moseley well.

* * *

All of us around Lake Tahoe have known for awhile that the area boosts a special collection of amatuer skiers. But the rest of the country is catching on, too.

During Cabral’s post national championship press conference on Saturday, the South Tahoe High sophomore was posed with a related question.

“What’s with the Tahoe skiers? Something in the water that makes you such good moguls skiers?”

Cabral: “Squaw has a great team here, and everyone from the Far West Division has been doing well.”

Cabral elaborated on Sunday night, not leaving out a sensational crop of Alpine racers.

“We have Jonny Moseley, Jonna Mendes and on and on. Far West has a good field of young skiers and us older and upper level skiers.

“There’s a lot of good coaches everywhere, and I’ve been coached by every good coach out there. But our coaches at Squaw are the best coaches you could ever ask for: Raymond Devre, Duke Peterson and Gregg Harrington,” Cabral said.

Including Cabral, Lake Tahoe produced four top-10 finishes in the men’s and women’s moguls singles at nationals. In the opening event of the Chevy Trucks U.S. Alpine Championships on Friday, Lake Tahoe placed three in the men’s downhill top 10 (Daron Rahlves, second; Marco Sullivan, third; and Wisi Betschart, eighth) and four in the women’s downhill top 10 (Jonna Mendes, third; Megan Ganong, sixth; April Mancuso, seventh; and Jennifer Scoville, 10th).

Maybe it’s the water or redevelopment. But more likely, Tahoe skiers’ success is from the old-fashioned variety of hard work and commitment.

* * *

Cabral’s South Tahoe High classmates will have to wait a few weeks to congratulate the national champion.

The U.S. Freestyle Team has detained the 15-year-old for fitness exams. The team’s newest star has already been guaranteed a spot on the “B” team next year and must be given a full battery of tests.

Not that Cabral is expecting anything special when he returns home.

“It’s back to regular when I come home,” he said.

In the meantime, check out Cabral’s championship performance March 30 on ESPN.

* * *

The 23-year-old Moseley, who has made three appearances on the David Letterman Show, showed a lot of class by helping coaches and skiers carry Cabral to the podium.

“He congratulated me. I’ve been skiing with him for 10 years now. We’re really good friends,” Cabral said.

Just think if that display of sportsmanship happened across the board in all sports. Well, in some sports like figure skating, officials wouldn’t trust the loser carrying the winner. Right, Tonya Harding?

* * *

Speaking of Moseley, he admirably pulled off double duty by competing in the Bumps and Jumps on Friday at Heavenly Ski Resort and then jetting off to nationals for Saturday’s bumps. He was first at Heavenly and fourth at nationals.

“I missed the World Cups, that’s the only reason I’m doing it besides going to say, ‘Hi’ to all the regional kids. I remember when I was a kid and went to nationals. Nelson Carmichael was there. It was like … cool. I don’t want to dish everybody,” Moseley said.

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