Go For The Gold


U.S. Olympic skier Patrick Deneen poses during the
NBC/U.S. Olympic Committee photo shoot in West Hollywood, Calif.,
in April 2013.

After an excellent season on the World Cup circuit, U.S. Olympic moguls skier Patrick Deneen was almost disappointed to see it come to an end.

He made it to the podium eight times — including a second-place finish at the Olympic test event in Sochi — and finished third overall in points. More importantly, he felt very good about the way he was skiing. Deneen put together one of the most consistent stretches of his career.

“I’m skiing really well right now and luckily we don’t have to change anything major in my skiing,” Deneen said recently. “Everything is working really well. … We just have some little tuning things to do and then we’ll be ready for next year."

U.S. moguls coach Scott Rawles has been watching Deneen develop since joining the U.S. team in 2005 and is encouraged by what he has seen in Deneen lately.

"He’s pretty locked in on everything," Rawles said.

For Deneen, however, the challenge now is to keep that edge — and perhaps sharpen it a bit — over the next few months until the World Cup season picks up again in December. That is when he needs to make his push to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team for Sochi. The team will be selected in late January.

As he spoke about his performance this past season and his hopes going forward toward the Winter Games in Sochi in February, Deneen was in the midst of training at Mount Bachelor in Oregon. After Bachelor, he was scheduled to go to Park City, Utah, for some water-jump work. The rest of his summer includes coaching at a youth camp at Oregon’s Mount Hood and then three to four weeks of skiing and training in Australia — interspersed with some good down time on his family’s Washington ranch in the foothills of the Cascades where he can ride horses, play with the dogs and roam through the beautiful countryside.

“It’s definitely a busy summer, but I’m doing what I love and getting better and preparing for Sochi,” Deneen said.

* * *

Deneen, a 25-year-old from Cle Elum, Wash., has been one of the top performers in international mogul skiing since 2008, when he was named Rookie of the Year on the World Cup circuit. The following year, he captured the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championship. He started the 2009-10 campaign slowly, failing to crack the top 20 in his first two events and then faced stiff competition from a youngster named Jeremy Cota at the U.S. Trials in Steamboat Springs, Colo. But in the final round at the Trials, Deneen was dominant. He won the Trials and secured himself a spot at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The experience in Vancouver, however, was where that momentum came to a crashing halt.

Patrick Deneen takes 3rd place during the FIS Freestyle Ski World
Championship Men's and Women's Moguls on March 06, 2013 in
Voss, Norway.
Patrick Deneen, who finished second in the event, sales over the
course while competing in the USANA Freestyle World Cup Moguls
competition at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York.
U.S. Olympic skier Patrick Deneen poses during the
NBC/U.S. Olympic Committee photo shoot in West Hollywood, Calif.,
in April 2013.

Feeling as if he needed to make a big splash to impress the judges and secure a medal in the finals, Deneen decided to try a D-spin move on the second jump of his run that he had not yet perfected in practice. For a moment it appeared as if he had pulled it off, but when he landed he lost his balance and crashed face-first. Instead of medaling, he wound up tied for 19th.

Just after the disappointing result, Deneen told a reporter: “I had to give it everything I’ve got. I was going for the win."

Now, on the eve of perhaps making his second Olympic team, Deneen believes Vancouver was a learning experience. He certainly has rebounded. He won the World Cup Finals in 2012 and collected two bronze medals at the World Championships in 2013 to put himself in position to contend for a medal in Sochi.

Perhaps more importantly, he feels more confident that he’s a much wiser competitor.

“The Olympics is a crazy event,” he said. “It’s a pretty crazy bubble to be in. Anybody going into their first Olympics, it will catch them a little by surprise how big an event it is.” He adds that he now has a better idea how to prepare and how to “attack this thing."

Rawles said he believes Deneen came out of Vancouver with some lessons learned.

“The old adage in sports is that you learn more from your defeats than your victories, and I really think that's true,” Rawles said. “I think he learned a lot from that experience and has been able to apply it the last three years on the World Cup. I think we’ll really see some great things from him in Sochi."

The key to Deneen’s evolution, Rawles said, is in his approach.

“I know that everybody wants to win and that whole side of it,” Rawles said. “But I think the main thing that he’s learned out of it is that he just needs to stick to his guns of skiing his run and his performance and let the results play out from that.

“I think the little bit that I talked to him after Vancouver, he was like, ‘Well, I was trying to win.’ But you know, that’s the end point of it. What’s it going to take you to get to that? I think sometimes athletes forget that. It’s about being in the moment and thinking about that performance and letting the results lay out where they will."

Over the past two seasons, Deneen has done just that.

Always one of the fastest — if not the fastest moguls skiers in the world — Deneen feels good about his entire package. Because speed is worth 25 percent of the score on a run, it’s a big aspect he doesn’t have to worry about. The technique and cleanliness of the run through the bumps is worth 50 percent, with the performance on two jumps worth the final 25 percent of the score.

This past season, Deneen was consistently strong in all aspects.

“For me being the fastest skier makes my life a lot easier because I’m able to ski only about 75 percent of my ability level and still ski faster than everybody else,” he said. “So when you start doing that you learn to get really consistent and I was doing that all last year and I was on the podium all the time without having to really push myself to the next level.

“That’s what you need to do going into the Olympics,” he added. “You don’t want to really change a whole lot."

Rawles believes there are several factors that have contributed to Deneen taking his game to another level the past couple of years: his speed, his technical skiing ability (which he says always has been strong) and his strength. Though he’s just 5-foot-7, Deneen always has been a physically strong skier. Plus, Rawles said, “Patrick works very hard at his craft."

Rawles sees Deneen (currently ranked No. 3 in the world) as a very strong candidate —among many — to make the U.S. team for Sochi. Among some of Deneen’s toughest challengers from the United States are expected to be Cota, Sho Kashima, Bradley Wilson and his brother, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Bryon Wilson.

Now, Rawles said if Deneen can incorporate some more challenging jump routines, he can be an even stronger skier by the time Sochi comes around.

Rawles said Deneen is working really hard on his degree-of-difficulty on his jumps to “make that next step up to the top of the podium."

To Deneen, it’s all about continuing to get better.

“I do feel like I’m getting better each year,” Deneen said. “I think it would be a little boring if you weren’t. We’re always working on new things and ways to improve and ways to get more consistent. If I wasn’t improving I probably wouldn’t spend so much time training. But to stay ahead in this sport you need to keep moving forward and keep trying to innovate.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Doug Williams is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.