Trudy Mickel picked a perfect time for the best performance of her young career. Now, she can call herself a world champion.
The skier from Durango claimed a gold medal this week at the FIS Freestyle Junior World Championships in Valmalenco, Italy. She scored 69.01 in the singles mogul event Tuesday to earn first place. She beat second place Anastasia Smirnova of Russia and fellow American Olivia Giaccio of Redding, Connecticut, who claimed third.
Mickel, 16, was the youngest member of the U.S. junior worlds freestyle team. In the singles mogul event, she had to advance through two elimination rounds and on to the super finals. The first 30 athletes hit the course in qualifications, and the top 16 reached the finals with only six moving on to the super finals.
“I skied my best run of the day in the super finals,” Mickel said in an email to The Durango Herald. “I knew I was going to need to lay down an impressive run to podium. When I crossed the finish line, I was happy with my run.”
Anxious moments followed as Mickel awaited her score.
“The scores seemed to take forever to come in,” she said. “When they finally came in, I was so excited to take the lead. At that time, there were still two athletes to go. As the last two athletes went, I held my spot. I was shaking so hard and couldn’t stop smiling.”
Mickel backed up that gold-medal effort Tuesday with a fifth-place finish Wednesday in the dual moguls event. That gold was won by Giaccio, who finished her season with three podium finishes and the FIS World Cup Rookie of the Year award.
“I am super excited about this,” Giaccio said after her win. “My goal was to keep it clean and fast from dual to dual. I feel like I skied consistently all day. I am very happy to finish off my best season to date in such a fashion and more than ready to start training for next year.”
Beating Giaccio and the rest of the world competition Tuesday was a career-best achievement for Mickel, who earned multiple podium finishes during the 2017 NorAm Tour and the junior national championships.
It has been a strong junior world championship for the USA team. Jack Kariotis of Tiburon, California, won the single moguls on the men’s side and claimed bronze in the duals.
“Team USA was all super excited as we swept double gold for singles moguls and a bronze for women,” Mickel said. “I was very excited to share the top spot on the podium with Jack Kariotis and the podium with Olivia Giaccio.”
Mickel’s parents, Alex and Molly, own Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours in Durango. Mickel trained with the Purgatory Freestyle Team under coach Kirk Rawles before joining the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club team this season.
“When the announcer said her name, I couldn’t hold back the tears,” Molly Mickel said of her daughter’s gold medal. “Then to follow up with a fifth-place in duals the next day is really exciting. I am so happy for her, proud of her hard work and dedication and feel so fortunate to be in Italy to be a part of it.”
Rawles saw video of Mickel’s runs, and he knew going into the event the steep moguls course would favor the Durangoan.
“She had a ripping run,” Rawles said. “She skis steep courses very well. The course was a 30-degree pitch pretty much. That’s right up her alley. She stepped up in a pretty elite field and did amazing. It’s exciting to see someone out of Durango who you’ve been involved with a long time venture out into the world and put herself in a place to win an event like that.”