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At Val Gardena this year for his first World Cup
race was Yuri Danilochkin, a 20-year-old racer for
the former Soviet state of Belarus who is coached
by his mother, Natalia. They are traveling through
central Europe on a tight budget in a Chevy Captiva
filled with a dozen pairs of skis.
During the racer’s inspection period for the first
training run — in which Danilochkin was scheduled
to start dead last — he side-slipped up to the edge of
the notorious Camel Bumps, where racers regularly
fly 70 meters or more from one jump to the backside
of another, crossing a deep gap in between.
“I’m scared,” Danilochkin said matter-of-factly to
Sasha Rearick, the head coach of the U.S. men’s
team. Rearick proceeded to calmly offer some helpful advice, and Danilochkin ultimately made it across
the Camels without incident; because of wind delays, he came down more than four hours after the
first racer finished.
Danilochkin crossed the finish line relieved. A volunteer handed him a pastry and took his bib. Soon
his mother came down with his coat. Danilochkin
explained that he is Russian-born but changed his
nationality this year to have an easier time getting
into the Olympics and other races.
Speaking English with a Kiwi accent, he translated for his mother as she talked about skiing for the
USSR in the 1980s, when Cold War politics meant
she never got a chance to ski on Swiss and Italian
mountains like her son does.
“They skied in Kamchatka, Kazakhstan, a bit of
Ukraine, Caucasus, Czechoslovakia and Poland
– that’s it,” he said.
As for the famous jump in the middle of the Val
“I was a bit afraid of it,” he said, “because I never flied
so far, and it’s a psychological thing, that canyon.”