Life isn’t the same for World Cup leader |

Life isn’t the same for World Cup leader

Travis Cabral of the United States performs an acrobatic jump during the men's moguls final at the FIS-Freestyle Ski World Cup in Tignes, French Alps, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2002. Cabral won the men's event. (AP Photo/Patrick Gardin)

Winning his first World Cup event has dramatically changed Travis Cabral’s freestyle skiing season.

On the cusp of greatness since he won the U.S. National Freestyle Championship at a record 15 years old four years ago, Cabral has fought for each World Cup start since then.

Cabral’s struggle to reach his World Cup destiny was delayed last year when U.S. coaches used discretionary choices to displace the Sierra-at-Tahoe product.

Bumped out of the European World Cups, Cabral faltered in the few starts the coaches accorded him in North America, giving him little chance to qualify for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

But a cache of retirements, including Jonny Moseley, Evan Dybvig and Alex Wilson, and Jeremy Bloom’s returning to football has opened the door for the younger talent on the U.S. Team. Cabral, 19, the youngest man on the team, now has every chance to become the U.S.’s top mogul skier, and possibly the world’s best.

His first World Cup victory at Tignes, France on Sunday vaulted Cabral from the “C” team to the “A” team. What it really means is that Cabral will be fully funded by the team for the first time.

“That takes off a lot of pressure, but now I have the World Cup leader’s bib and that can put a lot of pressure on you,” said Cabral by phone from Italy. “I’m going to try to hang onto it as long as I can and have some fun.”

Incidentally, Cabral was a discretionary pick for the U.S. for the season-opening World Cup. Bloom was given one last year and went on to win the World Cup title.

In addition, Cabral all but guaranteed himself a spot in the world championships Jan. 29 through Feb. 1 at Deer Valley, Utah.

The narrow victory also filled Cabral’s wallet. In the second biggest payday of his career, Cabral received a $6,500 check.

Cabral left a phone message for Bloom after his surprise win on Sunday, informing the University of Colorado punt returner/receiver that he’d have to come back and reclaim the championship bib from him.

Bloom called back and told Cabral, “I hope that means you won.” Bloom will reportedly return to World Cup for an event in Finland before the Buffaloes’ yet-to-be-determined bowl game.

Cabral is no longer permitted to perform his patented quad twister in competition, which may have helped him win Sunday. He has conformed to the tricks many of his competitors are using off the steeply pitched course’s two jumps — heli iron cross and double twister spread. While the jumps don’t satisfy his need for originality and competitive challenges, they made him a winner.

“I went back to the basics,” Cabral said. “I made my runs so clean and made my airs close to perfect, they had to score me well.”

The U.S. team learned in June that World Cup will not allow more than two twists in competition. That was ample preparation time for him, but he’s worried about the younger skiers who are now making that adjustment.

“It’s a bummer in a way, but it also my widened my bag of tricks,” Cabral said. “Some of the kids when you limit the twists they can do, they’re starting to throw bigger, harder tricks, plus they haven’t had the same timeframe to train for a new jump.”

Cabral will try to retain the World Cup lead Saturday when the circuit shifts to Sauze d’Oulx, Italy.

“It can be a really good year or a really bad year,” Cabral said. “I’m excited to have a World Cup title in hand, and I can either run with it, or I could stumble.”

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