Jeremy Bloom has never chosen the safe path.
After taking to the slopes as an Alpine skier, he switched as a teen to freestyle, with its risky but spectacular tricks. An all-state receiver in high school in Loveland, Colo., he played football at the University of Colorado while remaining an elite skier and won the 2002 World Cup moguls title, the 2003 dual moguls world championship and a spot on the U.S. team at the Salt Lake City Games. He also fought the NCAA to be allowed to play football and accept ski-related endorsements, a battle he lost last summer.
So it's in character that he'd ditch his successful but conservative style in favor of tricks that are more challenging -- and more perilous to his body and confidence.
"I was consistent in 2002 and 2003 and consistently in the top five every week. I was happy with that, but I talked to my coaches and said, 'I want to get my skiing to the point where I can win,' " he said Tuesday, while preparing for a World Cup event this weekend at Deer Valley, Utah.
"I've been using this season as trial and error. Where my normal run may win, if I were skiing a safe and consistent run, I'm trying different things. My ego definitely takes a hit. I try not to look at the results sheet. I'm hoping this new attitude will become my competitive run in the next year and take me to the top of the podium."
Bloom finished second in a moguls World Cup event at Mount Tremblant, Canada, on Jan. 8 but finished 31st in France in December and 16th at Lake Placid, N.Y., two weeks ago, leaving him seventh in the moguls standings.
The leader is Salt Lake City moguls silver medalist Travis Mayer of Steamboat Springs, Colo., who will compete at Deer Valley this weekend.
"It's just like any other learning curve. You have to take those shots and have adversity and learn from your mistakes," said Bloom, who's working on a 720 Iron Cross, in which his body stays perpendicular to the ground while he's in a flat spin of 720 degrees and crosses his skis.
"I feel good, and I'm looking to take a step higher."
Bloom hopes to make a run at the NFL after the Turin Olympics, but for now, he's intent on perfecting his repertoire. That process will continue this weekend on the course where he finished a disappointing ninth at the Olympics after being ranked No. 1 in the world but returned a year later to win his world crown.
"I have mixed feelings about coming back," he said. "This course is always challenging. A lot of elements come together to make it one of the hardest, but I'm looking forward to it."
Staying the Course
Sasha Cohen of Laguna Niguel, who finished second to Michelle Kwan at the U.S. figure skating championships for the fourth time in six years, has extended her collaboration with coach John Nicks "through Worlds in Moscow, and then we're going to evaluate the partnership," Nicks said this week.
This is Cohen's second go-round with the British-born coach who guided her to national prominence. Citing congestion at their training rink in Aliso Viejo, Cohen left in 2002 to skate in Connecticut with Tatiana Tarasova. She left Tarasova a year later to work with Robin Wagner in New Jersey, but they parted in December and Cohen returned to Southern California with her family.
Her initial agreement, on short notice, was for Nicks to coach her at the U.S. competition, but they'll keep going through the world competition, March 14-20. Nicks said all has been "very amicable" and he's pleased with her progress.
"We're starting to make some changes to her program to conform with international rules and regulations," he said, referring to the new Code of Points. "This week and next week there will be a lot of changes. So far we've worked very well.
"She's more mature than before, and she's happy to come home. She seems to think things through and be more pragmatic. It has really been a delight so far. When you work with someone as talented as she is, there's enormous satisfaction."
However, the rink isn't less crowded than before. That will have to be addressed, one way or another, after the world championships.
"We always have a busy summer, with a lot of people coming from Europe," Nicks said, "and if she would want to stay there, we'll have to find a way to make it comfortable for her."
Here and There
World Cup leader Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., will lead the 19-member U.S. ski team at the World Alpine Championships, starting Saturday in Bormio and Santa Caterina, Italy. Miller probably will compete in every event: the super-G, combined, downhill, giant slalom and slalom, and the new team event. He's the defending giant slalom champion. Lindsey Kildow of Vail, Colo., who won the first World Cup downhill of the season, is expected to compete in all four women's events.