NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 16, 2013

Work to be done for Olympic hopefuls

Seabrook's Lago, Amesbury's Ferguson in mix for Sochi Games

By Dan Guttenplan
Sports Editor

---- — Two local Olympic hopefuls fell short of their respective goals over the weekend, increasing the significance of future qualifiers for the Sochi Games.

Seabrook snowboarder Scotty Lago, who won bronze at the 2010 Olympic Games in the men’s halfpipe, and Amesbury freestyle skier Dylan Ferguson, who qualified for the 2010 Games in men’s aerials, failed to deliver performances that will help them secure spots on the 2014 team in the first weekend of World Cup qualifiers.

Lago placed 11th in the halfpipe at the Dew Tour iOn Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colo. The Hampton Falls resident entered this winter season as the second-rated American snowboarder behind only 2010 gold-medalist Shaun White, but Lago’s disappointing performance served as a sidenote on a day when Americans dominated.

American Greg Bretz upset Shaun White with a first-run score of 91.40. White, who placed second, had a chance to post a higher score than Bretz on his final run and fell short. Another American, Taylor Gold, finished third.

That gives Bretz, White and Gold the inside track for Olympic spots, which are earned by factoring each athlete’s top two finishes over five Olympic qualifers. In past Olympic qualifiers, only podium finishes were factored when selecting the four Americans who represented their country at the Games.

The other competitions in the qualifying rotation are the FIS World Cup and the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix, both at Copper Mountain, Colo., Dec. 19-22; and Sprint Grand Prix stops in Northstar, Calif. (Jan. 9-12) and Mammoth, Calif. (Jan. 15-18).

Ferguson, an Amesbury native, could be considered even more of a lock to earn a spot on the Olympic team than Lago. He has been the top-ranked American in men’s aerials for the last three years.

Yesterday, Ferguson placed 13th -- and fell short of finals -- at the World Cup in Beida Lake, China. Since Americans don’t typically dominate freestyle skiing as they do snowboarding, Ferguson’s 13th-place finish isn’t seen as a complete loss. He placed second among Americans, after only Long Valley, N.J., native Mike Rossi, so Ferguson’s finish could potentially help him in his quest for the Olympic team.

Still, Ferguson, who ranks fourth in the world, had higher expectations than an exit in the quarterfinal round. He had trouble with his landings in the quarterfinal round. The aerialists now head to Beijing for a World Cup in the famous Bird’s Nest stadium Dec. 21 and 22.

Although he was just entering his prime in 2010, Ferguson earned the second spot on the Olympic team for men’s aerials skiers, but was forced to withdraw after he was hospitalized with a series of stomach infections in the weeks before Opening Ceremonies.