Steamboat freestyle skier invited to Youth Olympic Games
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Riley Jacobs is one step closer to becoming another Olympian out of Steamboat Springs.
Last week, the 16-year-old was invited to compete in freestyle skiing at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. Jacobs, a first-year Steamboat Mountain School student, will compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle events over the course of Jan. 18 to 22.
“One day, you’re gonna see Riley Jacobs up on the Olympics and on the United States ski team,” said Jacobs’ coach at Vail Ski and Snowboard Club, Willist Engelhart. “She’s definitely a hopeful for them, and she’s only 16 years old, and she has so much more to do. The possibilities are endless for Riley Jacobs.”
While this will be her first and sole opportunity to compete in the Youth Olympic Games, which is for athletes 18 and younger, it’s not the first major competition she’s attended. In April, Jacobs won the National Championship in slopestyle at Copper Mountain. In January 2018, she competed at Lausanne and took fifth in the halfpipe competition at Junior Worlds. She’s even traveled as far as New Zealand to compete in a World Cup event in August.
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Like many Coloradans, Jacobs began skiing at a young age, strapping on skis for the first time when she was 2. Freestyle came later; she’s been competing for about six years.
“I like to fly. I feel like there’s a little bit more freedom to it,” Jacobs said of freestyle skiing. “With racing, it’s between the gates, but there’s more to free skiing than just that. There’s a different course every time and you can choose different tricks. Instead of a faster time, you can do bigger tricks and go off bigger jumps and learn new things.”
In the short winter season so far, Jacobs skills have already surged. She recently landed her first-ever 900 on a halfpipe, which is two and a half rotations. For slopestyle, she’s working on a cork seven, and she just landed a double cork 10 on an airbag in Park City, Utah.
- Riley Jacobs
- Annika Belshaw
- Erik Belshaw
- Niklas Malacinski
- Alexa Brabec
- Tess Arnone
When she competes at the Youth Olympic Games, though, she says she’ll stick to tricks she’s more confident she can land every time, like her go-to in slopestyle: the flat 360.
Just like the Olympics, the Youth Olympics occur every four years. Each country gets a pair of athletes per discipline per gender. After a third-place finish in a NorAm event at Copper Mountain on Dec. 20, Jacobs was invited to be on the U.S. team. She will join four other Vail Ski and Snowboard Club athletes when they travel to Switzerland together in mid-January.
“I’m excited to go with a bunch of people I know, hang out with a bunch of people, and I’m really excited to go because it happens every four years and I won’t be able to do it next time, because I’ll be too old,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, who has lived in Steamboat all her life, still skis with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club after school, but starting this season, she competes with Vail. The SSWSC doesn’t have a big enough freeskiing team to travel much, but Vail does. For a similar reason, Jacobs enrolled at Steamboat Mountain School this year, rather than Steamboat Springs High School, which allows her to focus more on skiing.
Jacobs’ mom, Sandy, said she plans on making the trip out to Lausanne to watch her daughter compete in a “once in a lifetime experience.”
“She’s worked really hard so it’s fun for her to be able to see the world and do things like this,” she said. “We’re really proud of her.”
Five Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes will travel to the Youth Olympic games as well. Annika and Erik Belshaw will compete in special jumping, while Niklas Malacinski, Tess Arnone and Alexa Brabec will represent the U.S. in Nordic combined.
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