Unique offseason recharges Cabral
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Travis Cabral’s knees lasted just long enough to claim two special national titles last spring at Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Realizing that he was extremely fortunate to avoid a serious knee injury, Cabral did something completely uncharacteristic in the offseason: He left his skis in an upright position.
“I really needed a break and I got one,” said Cabral’s, whose aching knees kept him out of last year’s World Cup Finals. “This is my 15th year competing and I hadn’t taken a break yet. I’m actually going into the season a lot stronger than if I wouldn’t have taken a break.”
Cabral and his U.S. Ski Team freestyle teammates begin their World Cup season Thursday in Tignes, France.
The 21-year-old Cabral showed his hometown fans the pain he was tolerating in order to compete at nationals. The pressure of landing his trademark big air jumps created deep bruises near the nerve endings in both knees. He grimaced several times on his way to his first national duals crown, two days after capturing his second national singles title. Following his duals victory, Cabral had to be carried to the podium.
“Everyone knows how much pain I was in last year and it was something I really needed to take care of,” Cabral said. “My knees are way stronger, but I still have to be careful and not get it all sore. It’s something that takes months to heal correctly.”
Although Cabral only recently returned to skiing, that doesn’t mean he has modified his expectations.
“My expectations are always the same,” Cabral said. “I’ll go out there to ski my run, and whether my run is going to be No. 1 or last, I expect to do my best and I never lose sight of that.”
The progression of the sport has required freestyle skiers to become more and more daring with their two aerial tricks. However, this season skiers are only allowed to perform one off-axis trick per run and the jumps must vary at least by 180 degrees.
“If I was skiing the way I am now five years ago, it would have been blowing everyone’s doors off, and the same with everyone else,” Cabral said.
Cabral will be hard-pressed to top his past two seasons on the World Cup circuit. Cabral became the youngest at 19 to win the men’s moguls series title in 2002-03 and last year he earned his fourth World Cup victory and finished fourth in the final standings. He capped his season with the sweet singles and duals triumphs in front of his hometown.
“I did it when I was 15, but doing it in your hometown far surpasses that. Even if I didn’t win, just being in front of my hometown crowd is just amazing,” said Cabral after his national singles title last year.
The U.S. men’s team is the most powerful squad in the world, featuring Cabral, Jeremy Bloom, Toby Dawson and Travis Mayer.
“The crew is ready. We find out [Thursday] whether Tignes will be ready,” said U.S. head coach Donnie St. Pierre. “They’ll certainly be trying to pull it off, up on the glacier if not below where somebody can watch us.”
– The USSA contributed to this story.