hd: Ramos all the way back, back on podium
SQUAW VALLEY – All eyes were fixed on Travis Ramos as the final competitor in the U.S. Freestyle Selection event waited in the starting gate atop Squaw Valley’s Red Dog moguls course Monday afternoon.
No matter how he performed in the ensuing 25 seconds, the Sierra-at-Tahoe/Squaw Valley product knew one thing for certain – he’s all the way back.
Then, after the 20-year-old from South Lake Tahoe snaked his way down the freshly snow-covered course, the judges confirmed Ramos’ comeback from major knee surgery. Needing a score greater than 26.22, Ramos uncorked a flawless 26.54 run to capture the first of two singles competitions this week.
“It means an enormous amount to me right now to be able to come back from sitting at the bottom of the course all last year to my first competition out I won both runs,” said Ramos, who missed all of last season while rehabilitating a torn ACL to his left knee. “I just proved to myself that I still know how to compete and I think it’s going to give me really good confidence for the rest of the year.
“I just had all of these questions after I got hurt, and today a lot of them got answered. As soon as I had my surgery and I’ve been working hard and training hard I didn’t know if I had been going hard enough. I really needed this event, not so much for my physical skiing abilities, but my mental focus for the rest of the year.”
Ramos, a World Cup-podium-caliber skier before the injury, didn’t ski conservatively, though. He aggressively unveiled his warmed-over Jonny Moseley 360 heli mute grab jump.
“I was a little bit apprehensive about that working out for me,” said Ramos, who performed the Moseley trick on the top jump during both the qualifying and final runs, while opting for the iron cross twister spread on the bottom. “I’ve had all of this energy building up in me, almost to the point where I’m raging to go out on the course, and finally, today, I was able to let some of that out.”
Ramos’ victory overshadowed a very dominant performance by Far West skiers. Travis Cabral, Ramos’ training partner since childhood, finished third, while Chris Hernandez, who trains at Heavenly Ski Resort on the South Shore, came in fifth.
“We’re just proving to everyone who didn’t choose us for World Cups that we’re ready, and all we need is a chance,” said Hernandez, who skied two consistent runs, each of which topped the 25-point barrier. “Only one person can win it, but if everyone is right in back of each other, it’s ridiculous that there’s not more spots.”
Ramos added a different twist to the World Cup snubs for he and U.S. Ski Team teammates Cabral and Hernandez as he playfully retreated to a mandatory postrace drug test.
“Right now, I’m afraid me and the rest of the Tahoe guys will test positive because the air here is definitely more potent than cocaine or any drug you can imagine,” he joked. “I just feed off the energy of Tahoe and the beauty of it. I’m just so thankful that I could have this event right here in my hometown.”
Cabral, 16, who shocked the team’s regulars in winning last spring’s nationals at Deer Valley, Utah, was content with his season-opening performance. And he was delighted Ramos returned without a hitch.
“It’s definitely a bump up for him, and I’m sure he’s psyched,” Cabral said. “Especially after his knee injury, it was an awesome run.
“Watching him helps me and I’m sure watching me helps him since we’ve been together a long time.”
Jeremy Bloom of Breckenridge, Colo., finished third.
Ryan Hickey, a Heavenly Ski Foundation member, placed 37th in qualifying with a score of 22.07.
Andrea Barry of Steamboat Springs, Colo., overcame Squaw Valley’s Shelly Robertson on the second run to win the women’s singles. Barry, who was second to Robertson in qualifying, squeaked out the victory, 23.45 to 23.34. Jessica Davis of Squaw Valley gave the Far West Division its second bronze medal – and fourth overall – with a final run of 23.08.
Ramos spent little little time enjoying his unexpected victory. Monday night he returned to Time Out Health Spa & Fitness in South Lake Tahoe to resume his cardiovascular and weight-training workouts.
The selection event continues today at Squaw Valley USA with dual moguls. Ramos and Cabral planned to skip the event and focus on Thursday’s second singles competition.
“It’s not something I’d usually do, but since I’m just getting back on my knee I feel it’s important that I preserve myself since there’s a whole season to go and three more days of competition here,” Ramos said.
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