Column: Junior World Snowboarding Championships
The seventh annual ISF Junior World Snowboarding championships took place March 12-19 in Les Menuires, near Albertville, France. The Junior Worlds bring together teams from all around the world to compete for the honor of being the best junior in the world. South Lake Tahoe’s own Dustin Singler was one of five men on the U.S. team in the junior age division (age 17-19). During the week of the event, Singler wasn’t available for comment. But he had plenty to say after his return:
My week in France started in a state of delirium from the exhausting 28 straight hours of travel. I flew from Reno to Detroit, where I met up with the rest of the national team, and then caught my next flight into Amsterdam. We flew through the night and arrived in Holland just in time to catch the next flight in to Geneva, Switzerland. By the time we landed in Switzerland, everyone was dead on their feet, but we still proceeded to meet up with our charter bus that would take us all the way into Les Menuires. The first two days were pretty easy-going, due to the fact neither the halfpipe or the boardercross course was finished, so we spent the majority of our time freeriding and exploring the Alps.
The first day of practice, there was a lot of complaining and protest going on because most – if not all – the coaches found the quality of the halfpipe and boardercross course to be substandard, to say the least. There were a lot of kids wrecking themselves in the halfpipe, trying to formulate some kind of line for the next day’s events. Kids were landing in the deck in some areas, but most were being tossed into the flat bottom from about 13-14 feet up. This is the day things started to slip away for me. I had been nursing a sore ankle I sprained at the Vans Triple Crown on Feb. 28 at Sierra-at-Tahoe. All it took for me to reinjure my ankle was one hard fall to the flat bottom; however, this wasn’t going to keep me from competing the next day. I figured: just keep ice one it and keep it wrapped, and it shouldn’t be too bad.
The following morning, when I woke up, my ankle was surprisingly OK. It was sore, but I had ridden in pain before. We were allowed only three practice runs before the contest began. My first run, I was riding strong and I felt confident; I was going to get the job done. In my second practice run, I nailed everything; it just all clicked. I felt good. My third practice run, I came into the wrong part of the wall – the part I had been trying to avoid the previous two days. It was over vert, and at a section of the pipe where you had the most speed. Needless to say, I popped out to the flat bottom, and once again landed hard and tweaked my ankle. After about five minutes of sharp pain, I told myself I could walk it off, and that I wasn’t going to let some stupid ankle problem rob this opportunity from me. I was the 65th competitor, so I figured I had a little time to rewrap it and work it out.
When it came time for me to take my run, I wasn’t even thinking I wouldn’t be able to ride. I was going for it, no matter what. I was just hoping the adrenaline would kick in and I wouldn’t even feel it. I kept thinking, “I came halfway around the world for this, and I’ve been waiting a long time to get here, just nail your first run, get into the finals and that will be it. You don’t even need to ride in the finals; just get there and save yourself for tomorrow’s boardercross.”
When I dropped in, my first hit, I threw down a good-size crippler. Everything was fine on takeoff, and in the air, and when I landed, I made it halfway across the flat bottom and then just collapsed. I couldn’t take the pressure from the impact. There was a sharp pain that ran up my leg; I tried to do one more backside air at the bottom of the pipe, but as soon as I landed the same thing happened, I went down. I remember getting to the bottom of the pipe and strapping, I remember thinking I’m done, not just for the day, but for the rest of the week. At that moment, I felt so incredibly empty inside, like I had let everyone down: my family, my friends, my city and my country. I remember feeling so frustrated, angry and disappointed all at the same time. I didn’t know if I wanted to fight, scream, laugh or cry. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life. The only thing I wanted to do was ride, and that was the only thing I couldn’t do.
As the day went on, I watched my teammates come through and deliver spectacular runs, showing the world once again that when the U.S. shows up, you’d better pay attention, because they’re out to win. At the end of the day, the U.S. didn’t finish on the podium, but American riders did secure the fifth, sixth and seventh-place positions. In my opinion, we were robbed. We were the only team that was throwing down 900s and crippler 900s. Oh well. C’est la vie.
The week continued, and each day, my emotions were slowly put back into place. I figured, “Hey, I’m here in France; I should enjoy this as much as possible. I mean, who knows if I’ll ever be back?” So I did. I met kids from all around the world, learned how to say some things in Finnish and Norwegian, traded jackets with an Aussie and kissed a Kiwi. So, all in all, even though I didn’t come home with a gold medal, I did bring back some great pictures, I got the best culture lesson you could ask for and I made some good friends along the way. Doesn’t sound too bad to me.
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