2010 Winter Games: Truckee skicross racer Errol Kerr training to represent Jamaica | SierraSun.com

2010 Winter Games: Truckee skicross racer Errol Kerr training to represent Jamaica

Juliana Barbassa
Associated Press
Rich Pedroncelli/AP PhotoTruckee's Errol Kerr slides to a stop after making a practice run at Alpine Meadows on Dec. 14. Kerr, born to an American mother and a Jamaican father, hopes to represent Jamaica in skicross at the 2010 Olympic Games.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Some might say he’s Usain Bolt on skis. Not surprisingly, though, when Errol Kerr tells people he’s a member of the Jamaican Winter Olympic team, most pull out the bobsled one-liners.

and#8220;When people hear of a Jamaican skier, they expect dreads hanging out the back of my helmet and a smoke stream following me down the mountain,and#8221; said Kerr, who lives in Truckee.

This is no joke, though.

Less than two years since Bolt brought world records and world renown to the island nation with his sprinting, Jamaica’s latest winter star is hoping to put his country on the map in the new Olympic sport of skicross.

and#8220;It’s more than just a country,and#8221; Kerr said. and#8220;It’s in my blood, in my DNA.and#8221;

Born to an American mother and a Jamaican father, Kerr grew up a dual citizen between Truckee, where he moved with his mother as a child, and Westmoreland, Jamaica’s westernmost parish.

He has felt most at home on the slopes since he was a kid watching a ski race on TV.

He rolls with the jokes, most of which inevitably draw comparisons to the Jamaican bobsled team, a fan favorite in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary that inspired the comedy and#8220;Cool Runningsand#8221;.

In fact, one of Kerr’s sponsors is a beverage company called Cool Runnings.

and#8220;There’s no running away from it,and#8221; Kerr said of the bobsled team. and#8220;I embrace it. They laid the groundwork.and#8221;

But while the bobsled team was initially a novelty, Kerr hopes to enter the Vancouver Olympics and#8212; his first and#8212; as a serious contender.

The hybrid style of skicross racing draws on Kerr’s extensive background in Alpine skiing. It also makes good use of the rougher edge he picked up in motocross and BMX, and the 200-plus pounds he has to throw around, said Jonny Moseley, an Olympic gold medalist who will be NBC’s commentator for the freestyle events and#8212; moguls, aerials and skicross and#8212; in Vancouver.

and#8220;Errol’s got a good shot at the Olympics,and#8221; Moseley said. and#8220;He’s cut out for the sport.and#8221;

Kerr’s background helps in an event that is rowdier than Alpine ski racing, where one athlete races against the clock. In skicross, four competitors speed down a steep, winding the course together, taking on banked turns, berms and each other along the way. The first one across the finish line wins.

and#8220;It’s very pure, very simple that way,and#8221; said Moseley. and#8220;But there’s a lot of contact, a lot of strategy and jockeying.and#8221;

To viewers, it is dynamic, and anyone who has raced buddies down the mountain can relate to the scramble. Snowboardcross drew big crowds and good ratings when it made its Olympic debut at the 2006 Turin games. Adding skicross will continue to draw younger athletes and fans, said Joseph Fitzgerald, the International Ski Federation’s freestyle race director.

and#8220;You watch it on TV and it pops, there’s so much activity,and#8221; said Fitzgerald, speaking from San Candido, Italy, site of the ISF World Cup Skicross series.

Kerr is taking nothing for granted. He spends his days training at Alpine Meadows, the resort that sponsors him, and in his mother’s front yard in Glenshire, where he built a starting gate with the same specifications as the one in Vancouver and rigged up his own snowmaking machine.

His mother, Catherine Kerr, once a ski racer herself, stands behind the practice gate, counting down: and#8220;Racers ready … Attention … and#8221;

She lets the gate fly. Errol Kerr springs out, strides. He plants his poles once, and crouches for the first tabletop jump, staying tight and close to the ground. Another stride, another jump. Then he circles back, and goes through it all again … and again … and again, shaving off the precious fractions of a second that could land him ahead of the pack in Vancouver.

Errol Kerr’s late father never strapped on a pair of skis, Errol’s mother said. It would have moved him to see how far his son has come, and to know that he is competing for the island, she said. Errol Kerr said part of his dream was always to race for his father’s country and#8212; under the black, green and yellow flag of Jamaica.

and#8220;To be able to see Errol grab a hold of that and say let’s take it a step further, put Jamaica on the map of skiing, it’s beautiful,and#8221; Catherine Kerr said. and#8220;He would just be so proud.and#8221;

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