Following his roots: Truckee’s Errol Kerr to ski for Jamaica
Usain Bolt. Asafa Powell. Errol Kerr?
That’s right. Athletically speaking, the three have more in common than one may think.
First, all are world-class athletes geared for speed. Second, they represent the same country. And third, if Kerr reaches his goal, they will all have Olympic hardware to show for their accomplishments.
The most glaring difference: Kerr is an upstart skier from Truckee, while Bolt and Powell are established track and field stars who hail from the small island nation.
Despite Kerr’s residence, the 22-year-old skicross racer will compete for Jamaica the next two years leading up to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C.
As of now he is the sole member of the Jamaican ski team after receiving International Ski Federation approval earlier this summer.
“I want to ski for the land of my father,” said Kerr, a native of New York who was born to an American mother and Jamaican father. “Everyone wants to do something for their dad … I think when it’s all done it’s going to be something beautiful.”
Kerr’s father died when he was 12.
Currently ranked 24th in the world coming off his rookie season in skicross, Kerr began alpine racing for Far West Skiing when he moved to Truckee at age 11. He still trains in alpine events, although he thinks he’s found his niche in the action-packed discipline he now calls his specialty.
“I love it,” he said of skicross, which makes its Olympic debut in 2010. “I grew up racing BMX and motocross, and I think it brings together lots of things I’m doing already.”
Truckee Olympian and former skicross teammate Daron Rahlves ” who also has raced motocross against Kerr ” agreed, citing Kerr’s background racing bikes as a reason for his success.
“He’s got good natural touch,” said Rahlves, one of the most accomplished U.S. downhill skiers who has since made the transition to skicross. “He works the terrain really well, which is a big part of it. He’s just a strong skier with good racing skills, and he has a good background with BMX and motocross. So I think it’s the most natural (discipline) for him.”
Rahlves said that while he would rather have Kerr on his side, he supports his decision to split from the U.S. squad.
“I think it’s good for him. It would be nice to have him on our team, but it’s a good opportunity for him,” Rahlves said. “He has a chance to do more ski events than anyone in the history of the Olympics.”
In fact, Kerr said he has the opportunity to race in six disciplines in the 2010 Games. That doesn’t mean he will, though.
“It’s unrealistic to do that,” Kerr said. “We’re going to do skicross because we have a legitimate chance to win a medal. We also hope to compete in some Alpine events, but we want to focus on skicross first.”
Next on his priority list would be downhill, Kerr said, then super G and giant slalom.
He returned on Aug. 21 from a three-week alpine training session in New Zealand with his coach, Raul Guisado, and ski tech. They account for the “we” when Kerr talks about his Jamaican ski team. That may change in the near future, however, as Kerr said the team may pick up a skier from Great Britain who also has Jamaican citizenship.
Until then it’s all Kerr, who said he will train at a Tahoe-area resort to be announced in the near future.
Tyler Shepherd, Kerr’s former U.S. skicross coach, thinks growing up skiing Tahoe’s variable terrain has helped lead to success on the race course.
“Errol seems to have a natural ability on terrain. I’ve also seen that in other Tahoe-area athletes, like Marco Sullivan and Travis Ganong ” and Daron Rahlves, of course,” Shepherd said. “Those guys that are based out of Squaw are fun to watch, for sure. They produce amazing freeskiers.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.