Cota bids to make US Ski Team for 2010 games |

Cota bids to make US Ski Team for 2010 games

Luke Graham

— As Jeremy Cota sat at the bottom of the Voo Doo moguls course at the 2010 U.S. Winter Olympic Team Trials in Steamboat Springs and watched fellow U.S. Ski Team member Pat Deneen nudge him out of an Olympic spot, the reality of the position he was in became apparent.

Certainly, Cota was disappointed. He came in as somewhat of a long shot, a skier who had been on the U.S. Team for less than a year.

But the second-place finish also revealed what makes Cota such an intriguing prospect to make the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"When I think about it, it's what's to come, not what happened," Cota said Thursday. "You learn more from mistakes than success."

That's been Cota's story.

His aerial package always has been on the level of the top skiers in the world. Cota, who moved to Steamboat a little more than a year ago to work with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, can go bigger than just about any other moguls skier.

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But it's been his past failures that have led Cota to where he is.

For three years, he just missed a U.S. Ski Team spot in the NorAm selections event. At the beginning of last season, a slip on his final run at the selections event left him off the team.

That's where Cota credits a big part of his success. He always had tried to go as big as he could in events. Working with the Winter Sports Club, Cota worked on becoming a more consistent skier.

For him, it was the process of learning that bigger isn't always better.

"I noticed it two years ago from him," said Rob Day, a freestyle coach with the Winter Sports Club who coached Cota last season. "Last year was a major breakthrough for him. It was how hard he worked on skiing and being consistent."

Cota earned his berth on the U.S. Ski Team by winning the 2009 NorAm championship. Now, with his second-place finish at the trials, Cota is in a group of good skiers vying for the final three spots on the Olympic team.

Deneen already has qualified, and with Bryon Wilson having two World Cup podiums and world champion Nate Roberts having one, at this stage it looks like Cota is in a position to battle with several skiers for the fourth and final spot.

Steamboat's Mike Morse has two sixth-place finishes in World Cups this season and is in a position to get one of the final spots.

But with three World Cups remaining — two in Deer Valley, Utah, and one in Lake Placid, N.Y. — before the official team is announced Jan. 26, Cota will have every opportunity to make his case for a berth.

"Jeremy has earned starts at both Lake Placid and Deer Valley for a total of three World Cups," U.S. Freestyle Ski Team head coach Jeffrey Wintersteen said in an e-mail. "These will be his first World Cup starts and clearly critical for him to earn a spot on the Olympic team."

Cota said now with his technical skiing ability where he wants it, he probably will up his degree of difficulty in the next World Cups. He said he knows he has the ability to make the team, it's just a matter of putting together those once-in-a-lifetime runs.

"I don't think I ever have put together my best run," Cota said. "But the past year, I've skied really well. Now I think I have a couple of jumps that are tough and that people aren't doing. The odds are difficult. In mogul skiing, you have to have the best run. It's no easy task."