Where’s Doc Brown and Marty McFly when Cabral needs them?
… Jump into your Doc Brown-custom-built DeLorean for a short “Back to the Future” ride to March 20, 1999, and watch with delight as 15-year-old Travis Cabral wins the U.S. Freestyle National Championships moguls title with an eye-popping 28.10 score in Deer Valley, Utah.
Move ahead and watch as the sport’s poster boy, Jonny Moseley, helps carry the country’s youngest national champion ever into the podium corral to receive his gold medal and $2,500 first-place check.
This is where the work begins. We need ESPN and CNN/SI crews slipping in their wing tips as they frantically try to get a word from the much-in-demand Cabral. Also dispatch a staff of three Sports Illustrated writers immediately, so Cabral can become more than just a Face in the Crowd. Then phone David Letterman and see if he wants Cabral for Tuesday night, Wednesday night or both. And by Sunday morning let Ted Turner and TNT know that Cabral and friend, Travis Ramos, a former Sierra-at-Tahoe combo known as T-n-T, are interested in serving as guest commentators for WCW Monday Nitro
… In reality, few people outside the skiing industry heard of Cabral’s incredible feat last March. The exposure of the sport only reaches the masses during Olympic years. As a result, several Microsoft executives have probably heard of Moseley and Donna Weinbrecht.
But if there ever was a Miracle March, it was the one Cabral gave his followers in the Sierra last year.
It all began as innocently and nervously as any freestyle season does – with the U.S. Selection events, a week of duals and singles races that treat the top performers to spots on the U.S. team and World Cup starts at American resorts.
That crack of opportunity eluded Cabral, and the South Tahoe High sophomore earnestly resumed training at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley to duel with a talented Far West Division.
Cabral’s impressive season statistics, which included several wins over U.S. Team members, earned him an automatic national bid. This spot allowed him to bypass a potentially dangerous qualifier that could have ended his dream before it started.
And the rest is history – a mind-boggling 1.32-point-winning gap over second-place finisher Caleb Martin of Telluride, Colo. But don’t expect to see a replay on ESPN’s Classic Sports Channel.
What the win did most of all for Cabral was put him on the U.S. Freestyle’s B Team and gave him a chance to regularly compete against the likes of World Cup champion Janne Lahtela of Finland.
“I’d like to face him at nationals. I wish he was there,” said Cabral, now 16, and eager for a weekend of singles and duals. “You can learn tons from people like that … someone of that high level, watching them come down the run. But you can always learn something from watching them coming down the run from what they do, whether they are higher or lower than you.”
Cabral’s stunning victory also armed him with the mental strength he’ll need this weekend in Sunday River, Maine where his peers try to bump him off his year-long podium perch.
“It’s going to be tougher this year, because there will be a lot more World Cup guys there like Evan Dybvig and Travis Ramos, but I have confidence in myself to go up there and try and win it again,” said Cabral, who recently finished runner-up in the World Junior Freestyle Championships in Italy. “They all want to get that spot on the team, want to be the next surprise or the next guy on the podium. I’m going to have a lot of athletes wanting to face me, which is awesome.”
The bad news for those competitors is that Cabral feels his skiing has improved immeasurably in the past year.
“I’m going in there a lot stronger mentally and physically, and I’ll just go out and have fun and see where I place,” Cabral said.
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