The forerunners

Steamboat 'boarders to make initial runs at Olympics

— A half-dozen local snowboarders opened the season with dreams of riding in front of huge crowds at the Park City Mountain Resort in this February's Olympic Games five will get the chance this February.

The bad news is that Becky Bassett, Sarah Hamor, Justin Goto-Reiter, Darren Ratcliffe and Michelle Gorgone will not be racing for medals as members of the U.S. Olympic Team. On the bright side, however, the young riders have been asked to be forerunners for the events.

"Just to be there at the Olympics, it's surreal. I came up just short of making the actual team (missing by just two spots), so for me this is a chance to show my stuff and to be a part of the Olympic Games. It will be a good warmup for 2006," Goto-Reiter said.

The snowboarders will play an important role at the Olympics. They will make the final runs down the Parallel Giant Slalom course just prior to the actual event. The forerunners will run the course just like a regular competitor, but their efforts will be used to check the course out and make sure that all the timing equipment is in order and that the gates are in place. While their run will never appear in the official results, they could pass on valuable information to coaches and athletes who will be taking part in the event.

The sixth rider from Steamboat, Tori Carrigan Koski, was selected to forerun the halfpipe event but has since suffered a season-ending injury last weekend during a big air contest in Breckenridge.

"I'm really disappointed (that I'm not going to get to ride at the Olympics), but I still have tickets and I get to go watch," Carrigan Koski said.

Unfortunately, the injury will also keep Carrigan Koski out of a much bigger event at least for her young career at the end of the month.

She has been selected, along with teammates Vic Wild and Lex Carrigan Koski, to compete at the 8th annual Trofeo Topolino in Italy from Feb. 27 to March 2.

This is an elite-level junior competition that pits the top junior riders (ages 14 to 15) from around the world against one another in an international setting.

Lex Carrigan Koski and Tori Carrigan Koski were scheduled to compete in the halfpipe. Wild is expected to take part in the Parallel Giant Slalom. Mike Mallon, Winter Sports Club coach, will also make the trip.

The riders were selected based on their performance at a Junior National Team camp held in Steamboat two weeks ago. Forty riders attended the camp and eight were selected to go to the Topolino event to represent the United States.

"This is one of the most exciting contests I have ever been to," said Mallon, who has coached the team in Italy the past couple of years. "They have a huge parade through the streets of Italy with a mock Disney castle (Disney sponsors the event), fireworks, plus 500 skiers and snowboarders from around the world."

For Tori Carrigan Koski, the injury couldn't have come at a worse time. But the young rider was taking it in stride as she spoke from her home earlier this week.

"I just want to recover and start looking forward to next year," she said.

Her plans are to get well, get back on the board and punch her ticket for the next Olympic Games, which will be held in Italy in 2006.

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