In addition to the Discoe brothers, Zak Watkins and Wade Parkinson represented Telluride on the men’s side, while Lindsey Cannon, Keaton McCargo and Lane Stoltzner (who is skiing out of Steamboat this winter) rounded out the women’s field; there were 57 women and 77 men overall.
Watkins had probably the strongest and most surprising performance of the weekend. After placing sixth in the first day of singles competition, Watkins won the second day of singles as well as duals on the last day. His top-place finish on the second day of singles meant beating out both Discoes; Joe finished third and Jimmy finished fourth. Joe was tenth on the first day, while Jimmy finished second.
“Skiing against Jimmy and Joe was amazing,” said Watkins, who grew up in Durango, and moved to Telluride two years ago to train more seriously. “I’ve always looked up to them and to finally stick a win against them was killer. It felt good after all these years of watching and envying them.”
Watkins credited his success to the pre-season training the freestyle team held coming into the season, including jump-work at water ramps this summer, a two-week camp in Switzerland this October and dry-land work here in Telluride. Freestyle Head Coach Caleb Martin also credited Watkins’s fast start, specifically on the jumps, to pre-season training.
“Zak going into Winter Park with a back full (a back flip with a full rotation) seemed to really pay off,” Martin said. “It was phenomenal to see him on top of the podium. He really kicked it into gear. He’s been working hard these last two months, doing the little things, and he’s come a long way.”
Parkinson, meanwhile, suffered from his limited time on snow so far this season. Spending the fall at school at CU-Boulder, Parkinson had to drive back and forth between Boulder and Winter Park, completing finals while also competing at selections. He struggled on the first day, but came back with a seventeenth-place finish on the second day.
On the women’s side, Cannon, McCargo and Stoltzner all skied well. Cannon finished 12th on the first day of singles, while McCargo finished 25th and Stoltzner 27th. All three improved their scores on the second day; Cannon finished tenth, Stoltzner 13th and McCargo 20th.
The selections event was the first opportunity of the season for skiers to make the U.S. Team and also to qualify for the North American Cup series (NorAms), which Watkins, the Discoes, Parkinson, Cannon and Stoltzner all did. There will be five NorAm events this winter, two out east, two in Canada and the final contest in A-Basin on March 4 and 5.
“It was an outstanding start to the year for everyone, now hopefully we can take that momentum into the NorAm season,” Martin said. “NorAms are the next opportunity to climb that latter. So I’m stoked on the results and now it’s time to work on the next events coming up.”
Watkins fell just one place short of making the U.S. Team, based on his results at selections. So while he won’t make the U.S. Team this year, if he finishes first overall in NorAms, he will be on the team next season.
“My biggest goals for the season are to win a NorAm and hopefully make the U.S. Team – that’s obviously the number one goal,” Watkins said. “The win at selections sets me up huge for NorAms. It’s given me a lot of confidence heading in. It’ll be tough competition, most of these events have World Cup-class athletes skiing at them, so you have to go into them with all the confidence.”
The Discoe brothers both started the season on the C-Team for the U.S. Team, which means they both earned spots to compete at the Gold Cup in Steamboat on Dec. 23. The Gold Cup, or Olympic Trials, is the first chance for U.S. Team members to earn a spot at this year’s Olympics in Whistler; only the winner of the event earns the first of four Olympic spots.
Jimmy and Joe both had problems off the bottom air on their first runs. Jimmy had a slight bobble on the landing and Joe under-rotated on his D-spin and fell.
The fall meant that Joe was first out of the gate for the second run, and so despite laying down a solid, clean run, he was slightly underscored to leave room for the skiers to follow, and he finished with a score of 24.86 to finish tenth out of 12. Jimmy also put down a strong second run and finished sixth with a score of 25.81.
“With the Gold Cup you either win or you lose; only first place goes to the Olympics,” Joe said. “So of course you’re gonna want to lay down your best run ever and you’re gonna try to push yourself just that extra little bit further. Sometimes it works out for you and sometimes it doesn’t. Overall I thought [my second run] was a good run. I knew it wasn’t a winning run, but I thought it was better than what I got scored.”
Jimmy threw a huge, laid out back flip on the top air, while Joe stuck a tweaked out back flip, mute grab. Both threw D-spin 720s (an off-axis 720-degree rotation) off the bottom.
Patrick Deneen won the event on the men’s side with a score of 26.68 to earn the first Olympic spot for the U.S. Hannah Kearney won on the women’s side with a score of 26.30.
“The point spread was so close that it really came down to speed,” Martin said. Deneen, who had the fastest time of the day at 21.3 seconds, only beat Joe, in tenth, by 1.82 points. In a sport where half of the score is determined by turns, 25 percent airs and 25 percent speed, every second and bobble is crucial. “The whole field executed great jumps. Everyone has great turns, it comes down to whose style is the most effective to get down the course and who skied the fastest.”
While both Discoes may have reason to be frustrated by their scores, Martin, who competed in World Cup events in his career and was one of the top-ranked mogul skiers in the country, maintains that the result means more than the number.
“It’s a judged sport,” he said. “Joe and Jimmy were both stoked after their runs and that’s the bottom line. You have to hold onto that feeling instead of looking at the score at the end of the day.”
While Deneen locked up the first Olympic spot on the men’s side; the other three Olympic spots will be determined by results at upcoming World Cup events leading into the Olympics.
Jimmy Discoe will have three World Cup starts before the Olympics – in which he may earn a spot – including one at Deer Valley, a course that he’s had success on in the past, which will take place Jan. 14-16.