Bloom, Kearney lock up Olympic berths at freestyle trials in SteamboatSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Jeremy Bloom ended what little suspense was left about his Olympic plans Friday, securing his trip to Torino with the best run of the day at freestyle skiing Olympic trials.

“Now, I don’t have to say ‘if’ anymore,” Bloom said after scoring 27.82 points in the moguls finals to beat out Travis Mayer for first place, the only spot that mattered at this event. Bloom qualified 10th but won over 2002 Olympic silver medalist Mayer, with Toby Dawson in third place.

Hannah Kearney, all but assured a spot thanks to a win in the World Cup earlier this season, won on the women’s side to erase any doubt. Kearney finished ahead of Jillian Vogtli, with Shelly Robertson, who led qualifying, in third place.

First-place finishers in moguls and aerials, which were scheduled for later Friday, earned automatic spots on the 14-person freestyle team.

There are many other ways these skiers can make the Olympics. Still, Bloom conceded it was something of a relief to get this done.

“Things came together today, which is a great feeling,” Bloom said. “It’s nice to check that box.”

Now, Bloom knows what’s in store for February: freestyle skiing on the 15th, followed by a quick trip back to the United States and a shot at the NFL scouting combine. The speedy wide receiver was on his way to stardom at Colorado before NCAA rules forbidding him to take sponsorship money forced him to choose between college football and skiing.

He chose skiing, and at this point it’s looking like the right choice. Bloom set a record last year by winning six consecutive times on the World Cup circuit, a seemingly impossible feat considering the pratfalls that stand in front of skiers in one of the most fickle sports around.

He will be considered a favorite at the Olympics, even though he finished ninth when he competed in 2002.

“He’s become a lot better skier over the last four years,” U.S. coach Jeff Wintersteen said.

Under an overcast sky, Bloom qualified 10th but laid down a nearly flawless second run that the rest of the field couldn’t match, clicking with 720-heli-X (two rotations with his skis tucked up under him in an X) off the top jump and an off-axis 720 off the bottom jump. He finished with 27.82 points to 27.57 for Mayer, the local favorite who won this event four years ago when it was called the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup and went on to be silver medalist in moguls at the 2002 Olympics. Third place in the winner-take-all (i.e., the winner gets $5,000 and an automatic Olympic Team spot) contest went to Dawson at 26.84.

Earlier, Kearney was eighth in the qualifying round, but she gave herself a talking-to in between rounds and came back with a storming run that nipped 2002 Olympian Vogtli. She clicked with a heli-X (one rotation, skis up-under in an X) and a backflip off the bottom jump for 26.66 with Vogtli second at 26.40 while third place went to Robertson with 26.37.

‘I did not step up this morning, qualifying third to last or fourth to last’ Kearney said. ‘It was a nerve-wracking experience watching everyone come down.’

After the internal pep talk, she said, Kearney – who was performing in front of her first coaches, Suzy and Nick Preston from the Waterville Valley program, took a deep breath and rolled into the second run. “The key [in the final run] was I was relaxed’ she said. ‘I was pushing myself too hard, from training hard and then into the first run. I just relaxed.

‘When I finished my run I thought maybe I relaxed too much. But it was really solid … so then I had to wait.’ No one could match it and the 19-year-old, who won the season-opening moguls event Dec. 14 in Tignes, France, clinched the spot. And the $5,000.

Coach Scott Rawles said, ‘Technically, we only have two winners but, really, we have a lot of winners today. For the younger athletes who’ve never been in a World Cup, or haven’t been to worlds or the Olympics, they had the experience of competing at that level … and that’s valuable.”

The aerials part of the one-day wild-card event were to be held at night at Howelsen Hill.

NBC will televise coverage Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET and OLN will have coverage Sunday at 5 p.m. ET as part of its weekly “10 Weeks to Torino” series of major event coverage as a lead up to the February Olympics in Italy.

– The Associated Press/USSA

U.S. Ski Team freestyle Olympic Trials
Men’s moguls

1. Jeremy Bloom, Loveland, Colo., 27.82 points
2. Travis Mayer, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 27.57
3. Toby Dawson, Vail, Colo., 26.84
4. Nate Roberts, Park City, Utah, 26.01
5. Tim Preston, Campton, N.H., 25.81

Women’s moguls
1. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt., 26.66
2. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y., 26.40
3. Shelly Robertson, Reno, Nev., 26.37
4. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif., 26.31
5. Michelle Roark, Denver, 26.21
– The Associated Press/USSA

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