SALT LAKE CITY Reporters keep asking Jeremy Bloom if he regrets missing last year's memorable University of Colorado football season. If he's sorry he wasn't around for the 62-36 kicking of Nebraska, or the thrilling 39-37 Big 12 championship win over Texas.
Yes, Bloom a small (5-9, 160) but fast wide receiver from a state championship program in Loveland, Colo. would have loved to have been part of the Buffaloes campaign that ended just short of the national championship game.
But, no way does Bloom regret his decision to delay his freshman season.
"I just got measured the other day for an Olympic team ring,'' he explained. "That should take the place of a Big 12 championship ring.''
Jeremy, although a late, ah, Bloomer in the sport of freestyle moguls skiing, might just add to his jewelry collection today in the Wasatch Mountains.
After only one full season on the World Cup freestyle circuit, Colorado's wideout-in-waiting is a bonafide medal contender in Tuesday's men's moguls final at Deer Valley.
And in Jeremy Bloom's mind right now, a trip to the Olympics Medals Plaza means a whole lot more than beating Kansas State.
Be honest, which would you have rather done? Spent the fall skiing all right, (ital) training (ital) or getting hit by Oklahoma's Rocky Calmus after running a slant over the middle?
But know this, too: Bloom is not afraid of pain or contact. "I took a couple of crashes in Europe,'' he said, "that felt like getting hit in two-a-days.''
Moguls skiing is hardly a painless sport. You plow through three football fields of snow bumps while speeding down a hill at a 30-degree angle. Twice along the path of your fall/descent, you shoot up a ramp, turn and twist and do crazy things in mid-air, then land before the next mound belts you. A second jump awaits you further down the hill.
It's a good idea to land on your feet after the jumps, too. You'll survive the fall, but it's a little like getting hammered by Texas safety Roy Williams.
So no, Bloom wasn't running away from pain. He still dreams of playing at Folsom Field in the foothills of the Rockies. But first he must pursue a dream at even higher elevations.
After spending the spring of his senior year training with the U.S. team in Chile, Bloom returned to Colorado to make the biggest decision of his young life. After a week of two-a-day workouts, he told Buffs coach Gary Barnett he would pursue his Olympic dream.
"It was a very difficult decision,'' he explained. "On the CU side, I thought I might get playing time, but there was no absolutely guarantee of that in skiing. Statistically, in fact, my chances were low.
"What it came down to was, I had to chase my dream.''
Go for it, Barnett responded. Your scholarship will be here if you want it in 2002.
Bloom hasn't looked back since that day.
"The day I made my decision, my No. 1 goal was not to regret it,'' he said last week. "But obviously, I went through a lot of what-ifs.''
Especially since there was no guarantee he would even make the Olympic team.
Needing a top three finish to be considered, Bloom finished third in events at Tignes, France and Steamboat Springs before finally winning at Lake Placid.
Freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen subsequently named Bloom to the team as one of his coach's picks.
"I flew to Chile and saw that Jeremy was skiing extremely well,'' Wintersteen said. "He was strong from top to bottom, he was the first one out. He was doing all the things we were asking of him. It really became apparent that he was the one to go.
"In some respects, we took a lot of heat for that. There were a lot of people sitting at home who'd had World Cup podiums the year before, and Jeremy didn't even have a World Cup start the year before. It's a risky decision from the outside, but we had to look at who's skiing well at this time.''
"It's a coach's dream to have a huge team with great depth. And it's a coach's nightmare that you sometimes have to make hard choices.''
Today, Bloom wants to validate everyone's tough decision.
"I gave up a lot this year, but I learned so much about myself in the process,'' he said. "I learned what I need to do to succeed, both in and out of competition. That's only going to help me in football.''
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