Meet some of the Mountain Games’ top athletes who have competed on the world’s biggest stage
By Shauna Farnell
Olympic fever has everyone’s adrenaline charging. As the 2018 Winter Games wrap up in Pyeongchang, we can look forward to the 2018 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail this June. You see, there is a significant crossover between the two. Proving that the Mountain Games take athletics to an Olympic level, numerous Olympians flock to Vail to participate every summer. Here are just a few:
Lindsey Vonn – Compared to bombing downhill at 80 mph, Lindsey Vonn refers to fly fishing as “a piece of cake.” That was the multi-medalist’s assessment in 2015 when she took some casting lessons at the GoPro Mountain Games. As her instructor said, she didn’t only nail the target, “she drained it.” “If this were a competition, I would have won,” she said. You never know when you might catch the world’s winningest female skier wandering around her hometown with her dogs during the Games. She hasn’t yet taken her fly fishing skills into the Costa 2 Fly X-Stream, but it could happen any day.
Jamie Anderson – The two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding slopestyle is notorious for her superb balance on all sorts of boards and H2O surfaces, even a Stand-Up Paddleboard in the Mountain Games. The Tahoe native dabbles in SUP for cross-training, dialing in her balance for those crazy spins off of enormous kickers. In 2015, she pre-ran the SUP Sprint course and hit some raging whitewater. Check out her harrowing paddle here.
Chris Del Bosco – While you’ll see Vail native Chris Del Bosco catching serious air off of the massive rollers on the 2018Winter Olympic skier cross course, you’ll also likely catch him owning the dirt in the GoPro MTN Enduro bike race. As an Olympian, he competes for Team Canada (his father is a dual citizen), but as a Mountain Gamer, he’s gunning for himself. Residing in Eagle-Vail, not too far from fellow Olympian/local Mikeala Shiffrin, Del Bosco has found his way into the top ranks among Enduro racers in spite of spending much of the year training for ski cross. When skicross made its Olympic debut in Vancouver 2010,the Vail native crashed across the finish line trying to land in photo-finish medal position, but ended up fourth. He finished in the same spot (minus the crash) in the 2016 GoPro MTN Enduro, then had to skip the 2017 event due to knee surgery and Olympic prep. He’s primed for the podium all around in 2018.
Steven Nyman – The veteran downhill skier had to skip the 2018 Olympic Games following yet another knee injury just before the launch at Pyeongchang. However, the Utah native has landed three World Cup downhill victories and a whopping 11 podiums. He also loves to compete in the Mountain Games and is a regular in the YETI Down River SUP Sprint, where he’s finished in the top 10.
Given that the Mountain Games are every local’s No. 1 favorite event, even if they’re just here to watch rather than compete, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into any one of the area’s prized Olympians. In addition to skiers Vonn, Shiffrin and Del Bosco, you could see snowboard slopestyle gold medalist Red Gerard (from Silverthorne), snowboarders Jake Pates or Meghan Tierney or freestyle skier Tess Johnson.
And let’s not forget the Summer Olympics. Summer Olympians use the Mountain Games for high-level training including these decorated athletes:
Mara Abbott – The Olympic cyclist is no stranger to the Mountain Games, having slayed the women’s field (and most of the men) in the Road Bike Time Trial over the last few years. After making a high-speed breakaway during the 2016 Olympic road cycling race, the Boulder missed a medal by a hair. She pushes the bar no matter what the format. You can expect to see her hauling up Vail Pass again this summer at the Mountain Games.
Howard Grotts – Another 2016 Olympian, in fact, America’s solitary male representative in the cross country bike race in Rio, Grotts has been a regular at the Everbank XC Mountain Bike race. The Durango native has yet to compete in the Mountain Games without smoking the field up and down Vail Mountain.
Georgia Gould – The Fort Collins resident landed a bronze medal in the 2012 Summer Olympic Cross Country mountain bike race in London and nailed the same spot among the stacked field in the 2016 GoPro MTN Enduro as well as taking second to National XC champion Erin Huck in a couple of the Everbank XC Mountain Bike races.
Katie Compton – A champion of numerous two-wheel disciplines, Compton won GoPro MTN Enduro in 2016 and finished a close second last year to Enduro specialist Cooper Ott. As for medals, the 14-time national cyclo-cross champion piloted a tandem bike with blind partner Karissa Whitsell, winning a whopping four medals, including two golds, in the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Eric Jackson – The namesake of Jackson kayaks and the gene pool behind the lineage of champion paddlers, Eric Jackson represented the U.S. in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, finishing 13th in the K-1 event. He’ll always be king of the water at the Mountain Games, although his son, Dane Jackson (who competed in the unofficial test event for the 2012 Olympics), has landed multiple victories in the GMC Kayak Freestyle event and is always a force in the gnarly Steep Creek Championship coming into the 2018 Mountain Games as defending champ.
While only the world’s best compete on the Olympic stage, the Mountain Games present a unique opportunity for athletes of all ages and levels to compete right alongside the Olympians. The 2018 Mountain Games rumble through Vail June 7-10. Sign up. Get stoked.
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