Dawson takes bronze
SAUZE D’OULX, Italy – Vail skier Toby Dawson wants to take back what he said about the Olympics being just another competition.Dawson promptly changed his tune Wednesday as he stood at the top of the Olympic moguls course in Sauze d’Oulx. “I was wrong, I was so wrong,” Dawson said of the Olympics being just like a World Cup event. “I was in the starting gate for my first run, and just about threw up I was so nervous.”The 27-year-old held it together for a bronze medal, finishing his final run amid chants of “Toby, Toby” from his entourage. Australia’s Dale Begg-Smith took gold and Finland’s Mikko Ronkainen the silver. American medal favorite Jeremy Bloom of Loveland was a disappointing sixth.Dawson threw an off-axis 720 with a mute grab off the first jump, and a corked 720 with a grab off the second jump.”I knew so many people had spent so much money coming out here to watch me, and I didn’t want to mess up,” Dawson said.
One distinctive component to Dawson’s performance is incorporating grabs into both his airs. While Begg-Smith threw a backflip with crossed skis off his first hit and a 720 off-axis cross off the second, and Ronkainen put down a 720 double helicopter and a 720 inverted cross, neither grabbed his skis.”Well, it’s not easy,” U.S. moguls coach Jeff Wintersteen said. “Toby has a tremendous amount of touch, which we all saw tonight.”Dawson’s touch is of his own making. Choosing often to train alone rather than with his American teammates and calling his own tricks have both been Dawson’s long-running habits. Before his final run, his coaches urged him to take a faster, outside line down the course. But Dawson felt the inside line suited him better.”I chose that line because it flashed my skiing style more,” Dawson said. “Not many people could ski that line, and as it turned out, nobody else tried it.”In moguls skiing, 50 percent of judging is based on turns and line, 25 percent on speed and 25 percent on airs. Dawson ended up with a score of 26.30, behind Ronkainen’s 26.62 and Begg-Smith’s 26.77. Both Dawson and Ronkainen made it down faster than Begg-Smith, but Dawson was the only one of the three skiers to take the inside line.”He’s an individualist,” Wintersteen said. “He wanted to stick to that line. We kept nudging him, and he stuck to his guns and he proved right.”
Some judges don’t like to see two off-axis airs in one run, Dawson said. Others dock points for the way he carves around the bumps. Being an individualist hasn’t always gone well for him.”Absolutely not,” he said. “It usually doesn’t. I just bite the bullet and ski it because I love it. I enjoy the sport so much, I want to bring it to a new level.”A new level is where Dawson and his family found themselves after his Olympic medal Wednesday night. Bloom overshadowed the eight-year U.S. Ski Team veteran leading up to the Olympics, but Dawson found himself alone in the spotlight Wednesday.Dawson was born in South Korea, and a pair of Vail ski instructors adopted him and his younger brother, K.C., when Toby was 3. Dawson has made time to work at the Korean Heritage Camp for Adopted Families every summer and has tried to popularize freestyle in South Korea.Several journalists asked Dawson on Wednesday if he’s interested in finding his biological parents. Dawson said he was and has some people searching, but wanted to wait until after the Games for news of any developments.The mother Dawson has always known, Deborah, found herself amid a sea of microphones Wednesday and said the moment that Toby won an Olympic medal wasn’t unlike the moment he came into her life 24 years ago.
“I was thrilled,” she said. “It felt like … well, like now.”As a boy, Dawson quickly acclimated to the mountain lifestyle in Vail. He enrolled in several sports, began jumping on the trampoline and thus developed his acrobatic skills. He began skiing at 4 with few boundaries.”I never said to him, ‘Oh, slow down,’ or ‘Oh, don’t go there,'” Deborah said. “I never pushed him. He just was crazy all the time. I wasn’t that kind of mother to put the clamp down. I think that allowed everything that was in him to just go.”Stopping the just going was something Dawson was considering earlier this season. Last fall, Dawson said he would possibly retire to a life of another sport he loves – golf – at the end of this season.Now he’s not so sure.”No idea,” he said Wednesday night. “It’s so hard to say after you get a medal.”
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.