PARK CITY — In October, Travis Mayer hoped to ski well enough this season to make the World Cup Tour next season. Two months later, not only is it looking like he'll achieve that goal, but he attained one he didn't even consider.
The 19-year-old New York native is going to the 2002 Winter Games, even though he's only scheduled to ski in one other World Cup this year. Mayer won the men's Moguls Gold Cup competition Monday afternoon with a score of 27.56 out of 30 to guarantee his place on the U.S. Olympic team.
"I didn't get too nervous about (making the Olympic team) because I didn't think it was possible," he said. His family didn't buy a single Olympic ticket, "because I told them not to. My family is scrambling now."
Every other winner in the freestyle events Monday at Deer Valley hoped and even expected to go to the Olympics this year, although only one of the four winners has ever even been on an Olympic team. Defending gold medalist Eric Bergoust won the men's aerials in front of an estimated 18,000 fans who turned out to watch the New Year's Eve competition. In addition to winning a place on the Olympic team, each skier won $10,000.
"The money is nice, but it was so much more important for me to jump well on the Olympic site," Bergoust said just as fireworks began on the hillside. He scored 260.54, and was the only competitor to put together two perfect landings under the stadium-like lights.
Bergoust's family, in contrast to Mayer's, has purchased 55 tickets to the aerial events.
"We get the opportunity to see him go forward in Salt Lake City," said his father Don Bergoust. "This Olympics is very important for all of the athletes. I believe it will be a time of healing for the United States."
The defending U.S. women's aerials champion Emily Cook won the women's aerials with a score of 176.03. She immediately began crying and ran to find her father, Don Cook, in the crowd.
"It's amazing," she said. "I got teary during training, standing up there (on the hill), looking at the bleachers and thinking about the Olympics."
Cook has only been jumping for two days after injuring her knee in early December. Her perfect landings were a relief to her and her coach.
"I jumped yesterday, and I said to my coach, 'I'm back'," Cook recalled. "It's just so impossible to put into words."
Women's moguls winner Shannon Bahrke had the same problem. After she won, she too, found her family and hugged her weeping father. She just kept putting her hand on her chest and opening her mouth in awe, The moguls skiers competed in the afternoon in front of about 4,000 people.
"I don't think I'm going to realize (what this means) for a while," said Bahrke, who earned 25.38 to win by less than a 10th of a point. "I just can't believe it. Winning this is huge. Our team is skiing unbelievably well. On any day, any one of these women can win."
She said she stood at the top of the run, the third-to-last skier to compete in the finals, and told herself it was all or nothing.
"I was just going for it because second place in this event doesn't get you anything," Bahrke said.