Dow Travers’ unlikely path to the Winter Olympics
WHISTLER, B.C. – The grandstands were nearly cleared out, the podium spots already filled, the press back in its warm tent when Dow Travers took to the giant slalom course here Tuesday afternoon for his second run.
When he finished, he was greeted by a few fans holding up a white sign that read “Go, Dow, Go!” Hardly anyone in Whistler saw the finish, or cared to know who racer No. 101 was.
In the Cayman Islands, however, this was the Olympic moment for which everyone had been waiting. The country’s first Winter Games athlete had earned his place on the same course as the world’s best skiers.
That he’d finished with a combined two-run time of 3 minutes, 2.89 seconds – more than half a minute slower than the winner – was of little importance.
“It’s a great honor to represent my country,” said Travers, wearing a bright blue, white and yellow speed suit that featured his home nation’s coat of arms and shooting stars. “We have a long line of great summer athletes, and it’s wonderful that we can translate that to the slopes finally.”
How Travers, 22, translated yearly family ski trips to Beaver Creek and only taking up ski racing at 14 while an exchange student in France is befuddling. In the last two years, in pursuit of his Olympic goal, he said he managed to train only about 50 days a year – most of it in Aspen, where his mother lives with his two younger brothers – while in search of an Olympic-qualifying result. That pales in comparison to the 200 days a year or more that top World Cup skiers spend on snow.
Between his studies at Brown in Providence, R.I., his late start in the sport and his limited access to snow, Travers said he has a “natural handicap compared to everybody else.”
He still managed to finish ahead of 12 other skiers among the field of 81 who completed the two runs in a race that included competitors from 62 countries.
Travers said he trains with the coaches at Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club when he is in Aspen. His coach from AVSC, Gene Bridgewater traveled with him to Vancouver to help him with his race preparation. He added his mother moved to Aspen with his younger brothers so they could get the “start on snow” that he never had.
“I basically go around the planet looking for snow,” said Travers, who lived on Cayman until he was 9 before attending boarding school in Europe. “Whenever I’m not racing for my school, then I’m training in Aspen.”
That is, when he’s not also playing rugby for Brown or the Cayman national team. There’s a possibility, with 7’s rugby being named as a sport for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games, that Travers could compete in the sport for his home country should Cayman qualify for an Olympic spot.
Considering what he accomplished Tuesday, it doesn’t feel like a stretch.
For now, though, it’s back to Brown, after missing three weeks of class to prepare for his big race.
He said most of his professors were amenable to his leaving school for three weeks in the middle of the term, although he did run into some issues with the school’s deans.
“When I back I’ll be picking up my books and starting off where I left off,” he said.
Ron Shillingford, a journalist with the Cayman Free Press, said Travers is a local celebrity back on the island.
“When he first qualified [for the Olympics] a year and a half ago, there were murmurs but no big shakes,” Shillingford said. “But it’s been like a drip feed ever since in our local media and it’s reached a crescendo this week. Everyone is really pleased for him.”
He added, “No one expected a medal or anything, but just to achieve getting into the Olympics is a marvelous, marvelous achievement.”
Travers said his favorite moment at the Games didn’t come Tuesday, or when he carried his nation’s flag in the opening ceremonies, but rather Monday when he first got to ski the course with the likes of Bode Miller and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
“That was my first time on a nice, hard, injected World Cup hill,” he said. “I just couldn’t stop smiling afterward.”
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