By Dan Guttenplan
---- — This time next year, Seabrook native Scotty Lago and Amesbury native Dylan Ferguson will likely be attempting to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.
One year shy of the Olympic qualifying events, Lago, a 25-year-old snowboader, and Ferguson, a 24-year-old aerial skier, are favorites to repeat the feat each accomplished three years ago: qualifying for the 2010 Olympic Games.
Lago, who took home bronze in the halfpipe in Vancouver, recently affirmed his standing at the top of his sport at the Breckenridge Dew Tour in Colorado. Early in December, Lago qualified first in the halfpipe among a field of the top athletes in the sport, including reigning Olympic gold-medalist Shawn White.
Lago wiped out in both of his runs in the finals, leaving the gold to White. However, Lago’s top run of the event was viewed as comparable to that of White and second-place finisher Louie Vito, a 2010 Olympian.
Fellow professional snowboarder and Olympic hopeful Danny Davis told ESPN Action Sports after the Dew Tour he believes Lago is still one of the best snowboarders in the world.
“Scotty Lago’s coming out strong; he’s riding the strongest he’s ever ridden,” Davis said. “He qualified first at the Dew Tour, which was no surprise to me. I’d bet Scotty’s on the podium, if not on top, at just about everything this year.”
Lago will compete in the United States Open Grand Prix this weekend at Copper Mountain in Colorado. There, is expected to deliver a podium finish in the halfpipe. Lago’s highlight of the last three years came at the 2011 X Games, when he placed first in Best Method and second in the Superpipe.
Ferguson, who now lives and trains in Park City, Utah, with the United States national ski team, is performing as well as he ever has only three years removed from an Olympic disappointment. After qualifying for the 2010 Games, he was hospitalized with appendicitis, which forced him to withdraw from the marquee event.
Ferguson has continued to improve since. Just last weekend, he placed fifth at the FIS World Cup aerials opener in Changchun, China, earning the top finish among all American males.
The 2012 season proved to a breakout year for Ferguson. He had his first World Cup podium finish in 29 career events at Deer Valley in Utah in February. Two weeks later, he returned to the podium with his second World Cup top-three finish. He concluded the season with his second straight national championship.
Ferguson will compete this weekend in Val Saint-Come, Quebec City, before visiting Lake Placid, N.Y., the following weekend.
At the time of the last Olympic Games, both Lago and Ferguson were somewhat noncommital as to whether they would stick with their respective sports long enough to make another bid at the 2014 Olympics. Each athlete remains at the top of his respective sport three years into the four-year waiting process.