U.S. freestyle Olympic trials set for Steamboat{mosimage}On Dec. 30, the best freestyle skiers in America will battle each other at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for freestyle skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Winners of men’s and women’s moguls and aerials competitions will earn coveted wild-card spots — automatic berths on the 2006 Olympic team. NBC, the Olympic network, will broadcast all the action from the Olympic team trials the next day Saturday, Dec. 31 at 2:30 EST (Additional television coverage airs on OLN Sunday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. EST).

While the U.S. freestyle ski team collectively demonstrated team supremacy to the world by winning the Nations Cup last season, it will be every athlete for themselves as teammates become fierce competitors.

Moguls qualifying kicks off at 9:30 a.m. on Voo Doo Run at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex, followed by finals at 11:10 a.m. The whole national team is scheduled to compete, including 2005 World Cup overall champion and NFL hopeful Jeremy Bloom; 2005 World Championships moguls gold medalist Nate Roberts; and Toby Dawson, who didn’t let a broken foot stop him from reaching the podium last year.

On the women’s side, 2005 moguls world champion Hannah Kearney will take on veterans such as 2002 Olympic silver medalist – and winner of the wild-card spot four years ago – Shannon Bahrke, two-time U.S. champion Jillian Vogtli and 2003 World Championships silver medalist Michelle Roark.

All these athletes and more will duke it out down a football field-length course of three-foot high moguls for the title of king and queen of the hill and a trip to Torino in February.

The freestyle action continues later that day with the high-flying men’s and women’s aerials in a dramatic night event starting at 6 MST at Howelsen Hill.

Past Olympic medalists Joe Pack (silver, 2002) and Eric Bergoust (gold, 1998), also winner of the 2002 Olympic team wild-card spot, are hungry to return to the Games and will be focusing on fending off teammate and 2005 World Cup champion Jeret “Speedy” Peterson and his jump – the “hurricane” (three flips with five twists) – the toughest jump in freestyle aerials.

U.S. freestyle Olympic trials schedule

Friday, Dec. 30
9:30 a.m., women’s/men’s moguls qualifications
11:10 a.m., women’s/men’s moguls finals
Awards immediately following competition in finish area
6 p.m., opening ceremonies, Howelsen Hill
6:15 p.m., aerials competition
Awards immediately following competition in finish area
8:15 p.m., winner presentation and fireworks at Rodeo Arena
9 p.m. concert by Hootie and the Blowfish, Rodeo Arena Rodeo Grounds

– Courtesy USSA News Bureau

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