RUKA, Finland Dec. 19, 2002 (USSA)--Defending moguls champ Jeremy Bloom (Loveland, CO), taking a short break from his University of Colorado football bowl preparations, returned impressively to World Cup skiing Thursday, finishing fourth—just .02 away from the podium—in a meet under the lights. At the same time, Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, CA) grabbed her fourth straight top-3 podium and men's silver medalist Travis Mayer (Steamboat Springs, CO) collected his third consecutive podium.
Tapio Luusua of Finland won his first World Cup with 27.33 points and Mayer finished second (27.20); Canadian Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau was third at 26.87, Bloom fourth had 26.85 and Travis Cabral (South Lake Tahoe, CA) sixth (26.27).
"Since the Olympics, it's like everything else is a bonus," Mayer said. "I'm skiing relaxed and confident...well, except for the first one (when he was 50th in Tignes, France, nearly three weeks ago). Now, I'm on a bit of a roll."
He didn't train particularly well this week in the dim light of Ruka, which gets perhaps two hours of what Mayer called "dusky" light at midday, so he cut back on his tricks, reducing his degree of difficulty with a heli-Iron Cross up top and a double twister spread off the bottom jump...and nailed each of them.
"My last run was clean and fast and I skied pretty aggressively," Mayer said.
He said Bloom's return "was great. He skied solid. It's great to have him back. Everyone's skiing so well now and it's pretty tight." With the opening criteria for making the World Championships Team being a podium, three athletes—Mayer plus two winners, Cabral and Toby Dawson (Vail, CO)—have reached that and Bloom, in his first competition in nine months, is knocking on the door after showing no rustiness in his return.
On the women's side, Olympic and defending World Cup champ Kari Traa of Norway won (27.25) with Bahrke second at 26.66 and Michelle Roark (Denver, CO) sixth.
Bahrke and Traa each have 292 points but Bahrke is the World Cup leader under a tiebreaker formula. For the men, Mayer and Finn Mikko Ronkainen each have 280 points but Ronkainen leads the under the same tiebreaker ruling; Toby Dawson (Vail, CO) is third and Cabral fourth.
FIS FREESTYLE WORLD CUP
Ruka, FIN - Dec. 19
Moguls (12 make finals)
1. Tapio Luusua. Finland, 27.33 points
2. Travis Mayer, Steamboat Springs, Com 27.20
3. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, Canada, 26.87
4. Jeremy Bloom, Loveland, CO, 26.85
5. Mikko Ronkainen, Finland, 266.6
6. Travis Cabral, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 26.27
11. David Babic, Washington, VT, 20.81
14. Brady Johnson, Littleton, CO
18. Mike Friedberg, Boulder, CO
1. Kari Traa, Norway, 27.25
2. Ingrid Berntsen, Norway, 26.66
3. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, CA, 25.88
4. Marina Cherkasova, Russia, 25.77
5. Margaret Marbler, Austria, 25.60
6. Michelle Roark, Denver, CO 24.25
16. Emiko Torito, Engelwood, CO
19. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, NY
World Cup standings (Best 3 of 4 events)
1. Ronkainen, 280 points (Leads on tiebreaker formula)
2. Mayer, 280
3. Toby Dawson, Vail, CO, 276
4. Cabral, 252
5. Stephane Rochon, Canada, 244
10. Babic, 196
14. Friedberg, 164
17. Johnson, 140
22. Luke Westerlund, Breckenridge, CO. 124
26. Bloom, 88
1. Bahrke, 292 (Leads on tiebreaker)
2. Traa, 292
3. Marbler, 276
4. Roark, 260
5. Berntsen, 248
13. Shelly Robertson, Reno, NV, 180
15. Justine Van Houte, Telluride, CO, 160
17. Torito, 144
18. Vogtli, 136