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Skiier Noah Morrison setting sights on Sochi
Noah Morrison’s first glimpse of Sochi, Russia was somewhat frightening but he can’t wait to get back there for the Winter Olympics in February.
The 19-year-old Canadian Freestyle Ski Team slopestyler – ranked 11th in the world – was at the Russia resort earlier this year to check out the Games’ layout.
“Sochi was different,” said the athlete known as NoMo. “It was like airport security to get on a chairlift. They pat you down and you have to have your passport on you all the time. The terrain there is sick.”
Morrison is rated No. 2 in Canada and will battle A groupers Alex Bellemare and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand for an Olympic berth. Bellemare has knee issues so may not be in the mix as slopestyle and halfpipe make their Olympic debuts.
“There are two guaranteed spots and there could be three,” said Morrison, in Colorado preparing for this weekend’s World Cup Northface Park and Pipe Open Series at Copper Mountain.
He will ski in a Dew Series stop Dec. 12-15 at Iron Mountain at Breckenridge Resort (Denver) and the U.S. Grand Prix the week after at Copper Mountain. There is an X Games comp in January, in Aspen. The Olympic team flies to Sochi Feb. 2.
How he does in the next six weeks will decide Morrison’s fate and he’s in a positive frame of mind entering competition mode. He finished 15th and was the only Canadian to mke finals at the New Zealand Winter Games (Cardrona) in August.
“I’m feeling pretty good, the best I’ve felt lately,” said Morrison, before packing for Colorado. “I’m feeling that I’m going to stomp my runs more often. I’m going out to win.”
Morrison worked out on the trampoline with the Silver Star Freestyle Club, did loads of road biking and hit the gym to prepare for the North American season.
Canadian coach Toben Sutherland, of Calgary, has watched Morrison’s game involve for just under two years.
“He’s in a great place,” said Sutherland, in a Thursday phone interview from Colorado. “He’s really hard on himself which is good. He doesn’t settle. He’s ‘Glad I got it, but I can always do better.’”
Sutherland said the laidback Morrison perfected some clutch moves last summer, allowing him to spin right, left, backwards and frontwards from the get-go.
“He added some unnatural moves to his bag of tricks so now it’s a matter of putting things together in a competitive environment. All the top guys can do doubles in all directions.”
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound VSS High Performance program grad has enjoyed decent success since being named to the national team in 2012.
As a 14-year-old, Morrison topped a few events and then rung up a couple of provincial titles as a 16-year-old on Team B.C. He struck silver in Big Air at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
He’s earned a few thousand dollars at the X Games and travelled the globe. Morrison pocketed $3,000 for a runner-up finish at the One Hit Wonder last summer in Australia. He won 1,500 Euros at the 2012 X Games in Tignes, France and had his ski bags stolen. Sponsors Armada, Oakley and Kombi covered the $6,000 theft.
Morrison gets some funding but is mainly bankrolled by his father, Jamie, a 44-year-old carpenter who recently traded in the family minivan for a 2003 GMC diesel truck with a canopy.
“We’re going to build a bed in the back,” said Noah. “The cab opens up so I can sleep while he drives. We get along great. I’ve been skiing with him since I was two. He’s the only one who can change my mood when I’m skiing.”
Laughed dad Jamie: “I know when to get him mad.”
Silver Star freestylers like Josh Bibby, Riley Leboe, Justin Dorey, Joe Schuster, TJ Schiller, Chad Sayers and Josh Stack have trailblazed the way for Morrison, who notes, “They were my idols.”
Despite the big names before him, Morrison is staying calm and composed.
“I’m just taking it as just another year. I don’t want to put the pressure of the Olympics on myself.”
Mom Denise and siblings Wyatt, 11, and Avery, nine, round out Noah’s other fan club. He’s big into mental imagery and listens to classic rock like Led Zeppelin, U2 and Tom Petty.
Morrison has a website that’s linked to PayPal; if you Google noahmorrisonfund it pops right up.
He wants corporate sponsors to know that his helmet is available for their logo. Fans may follow Morrison’s journey on his Twitter or Instagram (@noahmorrison2) and his athlete Facebook page (Noah Morrison athlete.)
The Dew Tour stop will be televised internationally from Breckenridge on NBC sports channels.