Hernandez wins pro moguls debut
Some of Chris Hernandez’s U.S. Freestyle teammates must be wondering if it’s more profitable on the World Cup circuit or off of it.
Hernandez, a part-time World Cup competitor and Nor Am regular from South Lake Tahoe, won his pro moguls debut, claiming the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bumps & Jumps on Sunday in Lake Placid, N.Y. Before Jonny Moseley won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, amateurs weren’t allowed to compete in pro events. How times have changed, especially for Hernandez, who pocketed $6,500 for the victory.
“It’s awesome that they’ve finally given us a chance to win some money,” said Hernandez, who earlier this month earned $5,000 while teaming with snowboarder Shaun Palmer to win the Red Bull Ultracross at Squaw Valley USA. “In amateur contests you can only spend money to win an event.”
Hernandez, second in the Nor Am Series last year, outdueled Travis Mayer of Steamboat Springs, Colo., in the finals.
“I was on it all day,” said the 21-year-old Hernandez. “Travis cut me off in the final; he chipped his jump.”
But the finalists avoided bumping, and Hernandez flawlessly turned his way down the hill for the victory.
“It’s all about being smooth out there,” Hernandez said. “With such a firm course if you get back on your heels, the other guy’s got you. This is awesome. It’s my first pro event, so I’m just psyched to be here.”
After qualifying second to Garth Hager in the morning round, Hernandez bumped off Chris Peixotto, Orio Helms and William McCloy to advance to the finals. Hager lost to Mayer in the semifinals and wound up third ($2,700). Mayer received a $3,600 for second place.
Hernandez, who missed Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bumps & Jumps first stop at Copper Mountain, can win the overall series title Feb. 11-12 at his home mountain of Heavenly Ski Resort. The overall series champion receives a new Chevy truck and can earn an extra $10,000 in a runoff with the series runner-up.
“Fortune is in his path this year,” said Sierra-at-Tahoe moguls coach Jeff Stowell, a former pro circuit regular who coached Hernandez during his developmental stages. “The thing is that we kind of paved the way for what these guys are getting right now, so amateurs and pros can go between the two tours and make a living.”
Hager , who placed second in the series opener, owns a 12-point lead over Canada’s John Smart in the overall grand prix standings with his 37 total points. Hernandez is tied for third with Finland’s Janne Lahtela with 20 points.
Hernandez will have a little more change in his pockets than most of his competition as he heads for a Nor Am event this week in Quebec.
“It should pay for the rest of my season,” Hernandez said. “That’s all it is is constant traveling and spending more money to compete. But it’s nice to have a little bonus like this.”
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