Troy Murphy of Bethel took a big step toward securing a berth on the U.S. Olympic team Thursday with a career-best fifth-place finish at the World Cup moguls skiing event at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah.
Murphy, 21, was the top American on the 2002 Olympic course, as a trio of Canadians swept the first three spots. It was Murphy’s first time reaching a World Cup final.
“It was crazy. This is actually my first World Cup final, and then to make the super final, it was amazing. I’m just really happy,” Murphy said. “I knew that I could do it, it was just whether I’d have the day or not. I’ve had pretty bad luck the last couple of years, but I always believed I could be here.
“I love skiing here. It’s definitely my favorite course. I’m super excited for Saturday. It’s going to be great. I definitely have much more confidence now.”
“Troy Murphy is an amazing story,” said Todd Schirman, U.S. freestyle program director. “He has been starting here the last couple years and made the (U.S. moguls) team last spring. It proves that he has what it takes and he has World Cup experience behind him. That changes his life and gives him the opportunity to ski more World Cups past North America.
“That’s his first super final, and it really puts him in a new spot because he’s got a great air package and this is really a turner’s course. He kept it tight and did a great job.”
The U.S. men have three more chances to record a pair of top-three finishes, which guarantees Olympic team qualification. No Americans have a podium finish yet this season. Their next competition is Saturday at Deer Valley, and the final qualifying event is Jan. 15 at Lake Placid, N.Y. Total points for all races this season will be used to determine members of Team USA if there are no podium finishes.
Two other Mainers also competed at Deer Valley. Jeremy Cota of Greenville finished 19th, and Dave DiGravio of Farmington was 27th.
Opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, will take place on Feb. 7.
SNOWBOARD CROSS: Seth Wescott, the two-time defending Olympic gold medal winner, failed to make the finals of his first Olympic qualifying race since he injured his left knee last April.
Wescott, from Carrabassett Valley, missed the first two Olympic qualifying events while he rehabilitated his reconstructed left knee. Friday, in a World Cup event at Vallnord-Arcalis in Andorra, he fell just short of making the 48-man finals. He made two runs, with his best time being 1 minute, 13.15 seconds on his first run. The last qualifying time was 1:13.13.
Alex Tuttle of Stratton advanced to the Saturday’s finals as one of the top-24 finishers in the first run, with a time of 1:12.12. Racing begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday
Wescott’s next chance to make his case for a spot on the U.S. team will come Sunday, also at Vallnord-Arcalis.
BODE MILLER has been cleared to race in all five Alpine events at the Sochi Olympics, giving him a chance to defend his super-combined title.
The International Ski Federation clarified its qualification rules after confusion this week about whether some top racers had achieved enough results. Men’s race director Guenter Hujara said Miller’s status on the injury list throughout last season was taken into consideration.
Miller, a New Hampshire native and graduate of Carrabassett Valley Academy, won three medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He needed FIS approval to defend his super-combined gold because he hasn’t competed in the required number of races for that discipline.
Hujara says the five-time Olympic medalist is also qualified for giant slalom and slalom.
Miller had already qualified in downhill and super-G, where he won bronze and silver, respectively, four years ago.