Jeremy Bloom returns to skiing, eyes 2010 Olympics
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” DENVER ” His NFL experience didn’t go as planned. Still, Jeremy Bloom isn’t through looking for mountains to climb.
Cut from the Pittsburgh Steelers this summer, the two-time Olympian announced plans Monday to start working out with the U.S. Ski Team, the first step toward possibly reviving his freestyle skiing career in time for the Vancouver Games.
This week, he’ll attend the freestyle team’s annual fall camp to evaluate how he feels.
“I’m open to wherever that decision may take me,” Bloom said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The 26-year-old Bloom traveled to Switzerland last month, where he was on snow for the first time since ending his skiing career after the Turin Olympics. He said things felt pretty good, and it made him decide to reconnect with the U.S. team.
“There are some questions to be answered, for sure,” he said. “I haven’t said this is a full-blown, 2010 comeback, but it could very well lead to that. That’s a question to be answered in a little bit of time.”
Bloom needs to fulfill a number of requirements ” including getting back into the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing pool ” before he can become an official member of the U.S. team. But he is working out the details, and until then, is welcome to work out with the team.
“Clearly, he’s a phenomenal athlete,” U.S. freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen said. “Since my job hinges on how many medals we win, the more guys like that you stack on a team, the better.”
Bloom’s career has followed anything but a direct path, so his switch from football back to skiing shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
He was a star receiver and kick returner at Colorado when the NCAA ruled he had to give up football because his ski endorsements violated rules against athletes accepting outside money. Bloom fought that decision but eventually had to make a choice. He chose to stick with skiing, his first love, through the 2006 Olympics.
He was the world’s top-ranked freestyle skier in 2005, a medal favorite for the Turin Games, but a bumpy ride down the mountain in Sauze d’Oulx left him in sixth place. He barely had time to be disappointed, however, because he was on his way back to the States the next day, getting ready for the NFL scouting combine.
“In making this decision, I kind of looked back, reflected on my ski career,” he said. “I don’t get the resounding feeling that I have anything left to prove. I feel I’m pretty accomplished in the sport. I have a nice trophy case that is missing one medal. If it works out, it would be nice to come back and go after that medal.”
The football part of his adventure, he confirmed, is over.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by Philadelphia, Bloom went through injuries and never really caught on. He was picked up briefly by Pittsburgh last season, but released by the Steelers this summer during training camp.
“My goals were not accomplished,” he said. “That was a disappointment to me. But the experience, that was nothing short of a dream come true.”
So while that door closes, another one opens. Or maybe reopens.
Bloom stayed in tune with moguls skiing while he was playing football and is happy to say that he returns to a sport that hasn’t changed drastically from when he left it. From 2002 to 2006, freestyle became almost exponentially more difficult, with newer, tougher jumps spiking the difficulty and danger.
Since 2006, though, Bloom says the international focus has been more on speed and turns than daredevil jumps.
“It’s pretty much the same sport I left, if not more to my advantage,” said the Colorado native, who has always considered the technical parts of moguls his strong suit.
Wintersteen described more drastic changes in the aerial part of the sport, but said it wasn’t a surprise to hear Bloom downplaying them.
“That’s how these athletes roll,” Wintersteen said. “That said, from what I’ve seen, he seems to be handling the challenges well. He’s proven he can get over that hurdle and that was the most worrisome component of him coming back.”
Bloom has been versed in the harsh realities of the NFL. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, he was a long shot in that league. Injuries made the quest that much tougher.
Now he comes back to a sport that has its own brand of cruelty: You can be the best in the world in a sport for 364 days in a year, but if things don’t click the day they hand out Olympic medals, well, “There’s no second down in skiing,” Bloom said.
In his case, though, maybe there is.
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