Hours after winning his second bronze medal in moguls at the
World Freestyle Championships in Deer Valley, Utah, last month,
Colorado's Toby Dawson was explaining how he prepared for the
risky jumps in the middle of his run. "You need to think about
seven moguls ahead," he said. "Forget what you just did; know
what's in front of you."
Dawson, 23, isn't one to dwell on the bumps behind him, and he's
had his share. He knows almost nothing of his life before
September 1981, when at roughly three years old he turned up in a
basket, with a note attached, next to a police station in Seoul,
South Korea. "Look after him," the note read. "We can't deal with
it." Neither does he recall the ensuing six months he spent in a
Korean orphanage before he was flown to Denver to meet his
adoptive parents, Vail ski instructors Deb and Mike Dawson. In
his two return trips to his native land, no words, sights or
smells rang a bell. "My first memory of anything was playing in
the snow with my [adoptive] parents, I guess because there was
love," says Dawson. "Maybe I suppressed everything before that
because there wasn't any."
Dawson took time to adapt to his new life. "He woke up every
night for a year screaming with nightmares," Deb says. Toby
recalls being so withdrawn as a kid that "when I'd see another
person coming, I'd hide behind my mom's dress." A year after his
arrival, however, the Dawsons adopted another Korean boy, whom
they named K.C. He had the vibrancy Toby lacked, and Toby often
asked K.C. (now a businessman) to speak to others on his behalf.
Once Toby donned skis, though, his personality emerged. Just
weeks after Deb suited him up for the first time, she was
dragging him off the slopes after five-hour days. He won his
first trophy at age four, after repeatedly attempting to complete
a child's course within an allotted time. "His goggles were
broken, his lip was bleeding, but he kept getting up to go
again," Mike says. "They gave him a medal just to get rid of
him." Empowered by his experience on snow, Dawson became
fearless. He scaled trees and jumped off rooftops. As the older
brother, he insisted on the top bunk so he could plop his
mattress onto the floor and flip out of bed to start his day.
Dawson skied on his first moguls course at 12 and made his first
national team six years later, quickly gaining a reputation for
attempting difficult jumps. "Toby's an air bear," says Don St.
Pierre, U.S. moguls coach. "I've seen him land in every possible
position. He doesn't mind taking the hits to move forward."
Dawson has suffered a broken wrist, a broken shoulder and a
ruptured kidney on the slopes. He struggled through an
inconsistent 2001--02 season and considered leaving the sport
after failing to make the 2002 Olympic team. "I wanted it so bad,
I put too much pressure on myself," he says. "This year I hit the
weights and worked twice as hard." That paid off with his finish
at the worlds, where his two third places, combined with teammate
Jeremy Bloom's gold and silver, gave the U.S. its best showing
ever at the event.
Dawson calls his latest maneuver a Cork-720--two full rotations
with his body parallel to the ground for most of the jump. From
afar it looks as if someone has unleashed an eggbeater on the
course. "I try to come up with tricks nobody else does," Dawson
says. "I want my style to be followed by others." While other
skiers at the worlds recorded better marks for turns and lines,
and finish time--two of the three criteria that determine final
scores--Dawson earned the highest marks for "quality of air" in
both the singles and dual moguls events.
The Cork-720 will be on display again at the U.S. freestyle
championships in Missoula, Mont., from March 21 to 23. But Dawson
figures he'll need until 2006 to fine-tune a more difficult
version. "I have about a two percent success rate in training,"
he says. "Chipped a tooth the first time I tried it." Nail it in
the Olympics, of course, and that rough start will be forgotten.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: JONATHAN SELKOWITZ (2) FAMILY METTLE Deb and Mike were on hand to see their son snare two bronzes at the world championships in Deer Valley.
While the U.S. is best on bumps, Canada tops the 2003 World Cup
overall freestyle rankings. Here's the Top 5.
Name, country Points
1. Travis Cabral, U.S. 628
2. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, Canada 616
3. Travis Mayer, U.S. 616
4. Toby Dawson, U.S. 596
5. Mikko Ronkainen, Finland 576
Name, country Points
1. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau, Canada 93
2. Steve Omischl, Canada 92
3. Jeff Bean, Canada 92
4. Markus Wittner, Austria 92
5. Travis Cabral, U.S. 91
Standings as of week's end