Shelly Robertson picked up her third U.S. dual moguls title Sunday, and Sho Kashima successfully defended his crown in the Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge that concluded the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships.
KILLINGTON, Vermont — After nighttime snow left about four inches of wet snow on Killington’s Bear Mountain, the women’s podium was a strong shout from veterans on the U.S. Ski Team — Shelly Robertson for gold as she edged Shannon Bahrke with Jillian Vogtli taking the bronze medal over Heather McPhie. The men’s podium was a spotlight on Kashima and other up-and-comers: Jimmy Discoe was silver medalist with Landon Gardner in third place, edging Jay Bowman-Kirigin.
“We’re not old. We are NOT old,” a smiling Robertson pleaded. “I don’t think 27 and 26 are old. We’re in our prime … yes, we’re ‘veterans’…”
Concluding her eighth — and best — season on the ski team (seven top 10s plus sixth in moguls and seventh in duals at worlds), she turns 28 in two weeks. Bahrke, who earned the duals silver medal at the 2007 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships earlier this month, is 26 and also an eight-year ski team vet. Vogtli is 33 and completing her 11th season with the ski team. This is her second season on the U.S. Ski Team for McPhie, 22, one of the up-and-comers whose season was worth Rookie of the Year honors in a vote by other national team coaches on the World Cup.
Robertson, the 2004 and ’05 duals champion, changed her routine a bit. Instead of her standard vertical-360 rotation on the top jump and a back-flip cross (legs pulled up in the form of an X), she did a double-twister spread off the top jump and a back-flip cross at the bottom. When Bahrke ran into a problem with landing a jump, Robertson skied home to her third gold medal.
“This morning the course was a little bit different and the snow was a little funky, so I was feeling sketchy,” she said. “As soon as we came out for training in the afternoon, I realized how the snow had softened up and slushed up, and how good it was. I felt, ‘Oh, this is ripable’ — a little easier to ski.”
Kashima, 20, unexpectedly found himself spending his first season on the ski team competing on the World Cup; he also won Rookie of the Year honors. He and Discoe, 17, each ran into problems on their bottom jump. Kashima recovered first after his shaky landing and beat Discoe to the finish to defend the title he won a year ago at Killington.
“I came in a little out of control,” Kashima said. “I was kicking, fighting, stretching to land on my feet. Up top I did an emergency back flip — I was supposed to do a cork-7 [off-axis, double-rotation], but it was kind of a mess of a run. But,” he concluded, “it worked out well.
“I just wish that last run could’ve been better. I would have felt better landing that last jump.”
He was philosophical about the march of youth to the podium while veterans dominated the women’s action. Gardner, 21, had knocked off 2005 U.S. duals champ Nate Roberts in the quarterfinals. “They’ve got the skills,” he said of his colleagues, “and they’ve been knocking on the door to success.”
Discoe said his bottom air “was gonna just be a big back-X [back-flip cross], but I got a little bucked on that last mogul and it kind of threw me off the lip a little quicker than I wanted. It’s kind of funny because right when I took off I saw Sho out of the corner of my eye and he was stretching [to get his feet under him for the landing] the same as I was. Basically, it was just survival after that.”
Moguls coach Scott Rawles was pleased with the performance of U.S. Ski Team athletes. “It was a crazy day but they stepped up; those are two good podiums with strong skiers … and Jimmy’s shown us what he can do. He was outstanding at junior worlds just a week ago [silver in duals, fourth in moguls — in a 1-2-3-4 U.S. finish].
“They closed the season with a bang. Nobody mailed it in and went through the motions. I think it was pretty impressive,” Rawles said as he closed his first year as head coach. “It shows the depth of our program nationwide, not just on the national team. I think club coaches across the country can be proud of what they’ve done. We lost our entire men’s moguls team from the Olympics a year ago [bronze medalist Toby Dawson, Jeremy Bloom, Travis Cabral and Travis Mayer], but we went into junior worlds and took the top four places in moguls and get silver in duals. You could see the other nations going, ‘Oh, no — here they come again.’
“We’ve got great programs in the clubs and I think our moguls future is bright,” Rawles said.
2007 SPRINT U.S. FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge – Bear Mountain
Killington, Vt. — March 25, 2007
Men’s dual moguls (4 made semifinals)
1. Sho Kashima, Zephyr Cove, Nev.
2. Jimmy Discoe, Ridgway, Colo.
3. Landon Gardner, Missoula, Mont.
4. Jay Bowman-Kirigin, Salt Lake City
Women’s dual moguls (4 made semifinals)
1. Shelly Robertson, Reno, Nev.
2. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif.
3. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y.
4. Heather McPhie, Bozeman, Mont.