Lahtela cruises to $13,600 Bumps & Jumps payday
California and Nevada seem to have the best claims to the border-straddling Heavenly Ski Resort, but Finland is making a surprisingly strong case.
Finnish freestyle phenom Janne Lahtela furthered his nation’s dominance at Heavenly this season, pocketing $13,600 after Saturday’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bumps & Jumps moguls finale. Lahtela earned $10,000 for the final run of the series, downing series points winner Garth Hager, of Silverthorne, Colo., in the bump-off between the top two skiers. Hager made a mistake on the last mogul before the first big-air kicker on the Gunbarrel bumps course, allowing Lahtela – first in the Jan. 24 World Cup moguls event at Heavenly – to cruise to a big, easy payday.
“If there’s $10,000 at stake, that’s how it goes,” said Lahtela, who managed to finish second in the season-long Bumps & Jumps moguls Grand Prix, good for $3,600 more, despite missing the second event in Lake Placid, N.Y. “You really have to go for it.”
The bump-off matched the top two in the Grand Prix standings after Saturday’s finals for one final bumps run worth $10,000. Lahtela said he knew either he or Hager would blow out. It was Hager, slipping on the last bump before the first big-air jump and coming off crooked, landing on his right hip.
“I just had trouble on that red course,” Hager said. Still, he didn’t go back to Colorado empty-handed. Hager pocketed $2,500 for his consistent finishes earlier in the series, $1,100 more for fifth in Saturday’s finals, plus a new Chevy Trailblazer sport-utility vehicle. That will come in handy for the Hager family – Garth wrecked his pickup on the way to the airport to catch a flight for Bumps & Jumps. But Hager’s wife, Bea, a former Canadian Ski Team member, will inherit the car to replace a Subaru she can’t bring to the states from Canada.
Hager’s consistency – three top-three finishes in three events – paid off.
“I usually do well in duals,” he said. “You just get skiing faster than you usually ski.”
Despite Hager’s success – and that of home-hill skier Chris Hernandez – the Finns were dominant. Finnish freestyler Sami Mustonen was the only skier who could defeat Lahtela, taking a 3-2 decision in the final dual round. The depth within the Finnish freestyle team pays off in big events, according to Lahtela, who leads the World Cup standings and led a Finnish sweep of the World Cup podium at Heavenly last month.
“It helps you a lot,” he said. “We push each other. It’s not a competition, it’s not ‘who’s best?’
“You don’t really have days where you don’t train hard.”
On a day where two of the South Shore favorites struggled – Evan Dybvig and Hager eliminated Sierra-at-Tahoe products Travis Cabral and Travis Ramos in the first round – Hernandez was a bright spot. The Heavenly Freestyle Team alum advanced to the second race over Australian skier Adrian Costa before drawing Lahtela in the second round. Hernandez did take home $900 for his seventh-place finish on Saturday, bringing his total winnings in the series to $7,400.
Gunning for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City was motivation enough for Hernandez.
“The money’s just a little extra,” he said.
“This is my second pro event,” Hernandez said. “I’m just psyched to be here.”
Two rounds after the World Cup’s top bumper, Lahtela, knocked him into the consolation bracket, Hernandez faced fellow U.S. Freestyle Team member Dybvig. Hernandez pushed Dybvig into eighth place by sticking a 720 on the top jump and a 360 heli mute grab on the bottom while Dybvig crashed off the first.
“We were at the top, and since we’re teammates, we were like, 7’s up top and 360 mute grabs on the bottom,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has his sights set on the Chevy Truck U.S. Freestyle Championships March 24-26. Cabral, South Lake Tahoe’s 16-year old bumps prodigy, will head to Bogus Basin, Idaho for the next round of Nor Ams, then to the Junior World Championships, which is a qualifier for the World Cup Finals March 15-18 in Livigno, Italy.
“I’m working on a lot of improvements, pretty much trying to get my technical skills going,” Cabral said.
Saturday’s final round wrapped the three-event Bumps & Jumps moguls and aerials series. NBC will pack both days of competition at Heavenly into a one-hour sports special from 11 a.m. – noon Feb. 19.
Sprint Nutri-Grain Bumps & Jumps
Third event – Heavenly Ski Resort, Saturday
1. Sami Mustonen, FIN (def. R. Riley; def. M.Ronkainen; def. J. Brassard; def. J. Lahtela) – $6,500
2. Janne Lahtela, FIN (def. B. Collins; def. C. Hernandez; def. P. Rousseau) – $3,600
3. Pierre-Andre Rousseau, CAN (def. J. Schiman; def. G. Hager; def. J. Brassard) – $2,700
4. Jean-Luc Brassard, CAN ( def. T. Mayer; def. E. Dybvig) – $1,600
5. Garth Hager, USA (def. T. Ramos; def. M. Ronkainen) – $1,100
6. Mikko Ronkainen, FIN (def. O. Helms; def. E. Dybvig) – $1,000
7. Chris Hernandez, USA (def. A. Costa; def. E. Dybvig) – $900
8. Evan Dybvig, USA (def. T. Cabral) – $750
9. Travis Cabral, USA – $600
10. Adrian Costa, AUS – $550
11. Jim Schiman, CAN – $500
12. Ryan Riley, USA – $450
13. Orion Helms, USA – $400
14. Travis Ramos, USA -$350
15. Bryan Collins, USA – $300
16. Travis Mayer, USA – $200
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