Far West hucksters top podiums
Far West Freestyle hucksters have come back home bearing more fruit than before. Last week, Far West freestyle hucksters in Steamboat Springs, Colo., took nine podium finishes in the Junior Olympics.
You might think the only people crazier than these kids are their parents, but instead, they beam with pride.
“It is exciting, they do a lot of training so it’s not a worry thing, but it’s a reward for their hard work,” said Toni Robinson, the mother of Rafe Robinson, 14, the silver medalist in men’s big air.
Rob Walter took gold in men’s big air, followed by Robinson’s silver. In the end, only half a point separated the two friends: Walter had 88.2 points and Robinson had 87.8.
Several other Far West freestyle competitors finished strong. McKenzy Golding won gold in women’s dual moguls and silver in moguls; K.C. Oakley took silver in women’s big air; Scott Bahrke took silver in men’s aerials; Tucker Volk took bronze in men’s big air, Sean Field took bronze in men’s half pipe; and Jordan Basile took bronze in men’s moguls.
Golding’s first place in duals gives her a shot at competing in the U.S. National Championships.
Robinson has a solid perspective on being able to ski like he does.
“I’m pretty stoked to be able to do what I do, to live in Tahoe,” he said.
School could be a conflict for him, but it’s not. A freshman at Prosser Creek Charter School, he’s able to study while he’s on the road.
“They’re really cool about getting independent study,” he said. “They’re really nice to us.”
Walter, 16, finished 20th in last year’s Junior Olympics, but a summer injury left him with extra free time to sit around.
“I broke my ankle over the summer and that gave me a lot of time to think about it and I got excited,” he said.
His goals are similar: X-Games, hopefully next year, the US Open and next year’s Junior Olympics, again. And, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Olympics.
“Oh, yeah, that,” he said.
Walter had his final run long before the other finalists.
“Everyone kept telling me that I was going to win throughout the day,” Walter said. “Rafe had his last run and it kind of scared me a little bit.”
Despite the competition, the two are friends.
“We push each other,” Walter said. “I consider us pretty much equal in skills.”
“We pushed each other a lot to go bigger, faster,” Robinson said.
Despite the friendship, Robinson still wants that number one spot.
“Next year, it’s mine,” he said. “It’s been one-two pretty much all year.”
So, what do the moms think of their aerialists?
A lot of thought and planning has been put into Rafe and Rob’s work, so a 1-2 combination for the two is a huge payoff.
Rafe’s goals might seem big, but considering what he’s already done, they are very realistic: X-Games, the US Opens and the Olympics. Rafe picked up skiing when he was five and started racing before he was 10. But the racing didn’t do it for him.
“He started out as racing and thought racing wasn’t quite as fun as jumping,” Toni Robinson said. “He’s always jumped- off the roof, off anything.”
Her son’s daredevil antics and prowess in 50-foot tables hasn’t deterred her from allowing him to compete.
“It was fine, except when the tables got bigger and everything got bigger,” she said. “But he started little, It’s not like he went out on a 75-foot table.
“I’ve grown accustomed to it.”
Walter’s mom was no different.
“(Rob) started skiing (competitively) when he was a freshman in high school,” Lynne Walter said. “In his second year, he made the Junior Olympic team and placed in the middle of the pack.”
“The fact that I’m jumping and everything doesn’t seem to bother her,” Rob Walter said.
His progress this year has been duly noted. Walter’s initial worries have been subdued by the massive amount of training he’s received.
“I should have my head examined for letting him doing this,” she said. “But he was trained at the US Olympic training facility, he has the body motion where he was able to compete in this.”
Rob picked up skiing competitively when he was eight after he started beating his parents, both veteran skiers, to the bottom.
“We ran into the some friends that said he should be on the Alpine Meadows Freestyle Team,” mother Walter said.
Now that’s where he’s at and it looks like he’ll be for a while, too.
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