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Tahoe’s bumpers like Bloom’s chances

Steve Yingling

One will spend the day freeskiing and the other will be at the bottom of the hill cheering on his teammates.

When the men’s moguls unfold today at the Winter Games in Deer Valley, Utah, U.S. Freestyle Ski Team members Chris Hernandez and Travis Ramos will take different approaches in viewing their sport’s premier event.

On Monday afternoon, Hernandez flew out of Reno with Dr. Terry Orr and physical therapist Chris Proctor. They’ll help Hernandez continue to rehabilitate a torn ACL that shattered his Olympic dream last month.

“They’ll be working on my knee while I’m watching the moguls event,” joked Hernandez, who surrendered his crutches on Monday.

While Hernandez will get a closeup view of the new Olympic champion, Ramos has opted to spend the day skiing on the South Shore. He won’t answer phone calls today so he can watch the event on NBC tonight without knowing the outcome.

“I’ll be watching it at home and I’d rather watch it without knowing,” said Ramos, who would have been competing tonight if team coaches hadn’t used a discretionary pick to select Olympic veteran Evan Dybvig.

While Ramos prefers to be in the dark about today’s winner, he isn’t being secretive about his favorite.

“A winner in freestyle skiing is too hard to pick, but I do know that Jeremy Bloom and all the sports he’s competed at a high level at, he’s probably been in more high-stress starting gates than anybody else and he has the best game face out there,” Ramos said.

Deer Valley’s minefield of bumps is much longer than the skiers are accustomed to on the World Cup circuit, a fact that favors the Americans, the local bumpers said.

“It’s definitely going to favor the U.S. guys because they’ve skied it so much … that’s one thing we have on the rest of the world,” Hernandez said.

It doesn’t matter how physically prepared the competitors are, they’ll be looking unfit by the end of their demanding runs.

“It’s a leg burner,” Hernandez sad. “By the time they get to the bottom air, they’ll be gasping for breath.”

The course is a far different one than the Americans competed on New Year’s Eve in the Gold Cup, according to Ramos.

“That course was in great shape, very flowing and easy on the nerves and body,” said Ramos, who has been receiving inside information from friends in Deer Valley. “Now, a lot of people are stressing out because not many have been making it down consistently.”

Ramos said the bumps are “dangerously” pointed, making it more likely for competitors to error.

“People who will be trying the really insane, spectacular run stand a high risk of making errors and not placing well,” he said. “Skiers like Bloom and Travis Mayer, they never put down insanely fast runs and really big airs. They have an ability to be very consistent and not make many mistakes.”

Hernandez likens predicting a winner to a crapshoot, but when cornered he settled on Bloom and defending gold medalist Jonny Moseley.

“I’m only picking those guys because Jonny’s done it and Bloom is on fire right now. He’s number one in the world, and if he skis the way he has been, he has a really good chance,” Hernandez said. “The other guys are hit-and-miss.”

The 22-year-old Ramos says he’s not counting out dinner roll innovator Moseley, but “it’d pretty much be a miracle for Jonny, I think.

“One thing’s for sure, Jonny’s run will be exciting. The thing for Jonny this time around isn’t so much winning a gold medal but trying to progress our sport.”

If an American doesn’t top the podium today, Ramos thinks Canadian Stephane Rochon or “flying Finns” Janne Lahtela or Sami Mustonen have the best chances.


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