Steamboat Springs The Olympics, of course, is the big thing looming on the horizon for Steamboat Springs snowboader Mick Dierdorff, and the pressure to make the team is already starting to mount.
The 25-year old snowboard cross racer said he’s dreamed of making the Olympics his whole life and, with the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, only 10 months away, he has the best chance he’s ever had, maybe the best chance he ever will.
He’s not a sure thing to make the U.S.’s four-man snowboard cross team, but he’s confident he has a good shot. But, behind the building pressure, Dierdorff is still just a guy in love with what he does.
“The thing about our sport, it’s so much fun,” he said. “I get to have an absolute blast just being out there racing and getting that adrenaline rush.”
That’s the attitude he’s hoping can carry him to a new level in his career.
It certainly helped him late this season.
It’s been an up-and-down ride for Dierdorff in recent years. He’s been racing World Cup events since 2009 and really began to make progress in those events the past two years, consistently making it through the qualifying round, then notching top-10 and top-20 results.
Still, he couldn’t take that next step — into the top-10 on a regular basis and onto the podium — this winter.
“It was a pretty rough season,” he said. “I was really happy about my riding, and I qualified well in every race, but unfortunately, I didn’t make it happen in the heats.”
At least he didn’t make it happen on his own. He got his career-best World Cup result in the season’s final race, a two-man relay event. He paired with fellow U.S. rider Jonathan Cheever to place second.
Dierdorff’s first trip to the podium was both sweet and sour.
It was a great day. He started third in the final heat, behind an Austrian team and a Canadian team, but managed one quick pass to bump the Canadians into third and lock up second.
Still, he couldn’t help but wish the circumstances had been different.
“It’s not quite the same as if I had done it in an individual event,” he said. “I don’t want to say I was bitter, but I just wish it had gone my way like that in an individual event.”
Alone or not, it was a strong result, and he followed it up with a fourth-place finish at the Canadian national championships, then a second-place showing at the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association national championships last weekend at Copper Mountain.
“Things are going in the right direction, for sure,” he said.
The Olympic team will be decided by results from a series of five World Cup events starting in the fall in South America and leading up to the Olympics in February.
The top four United States riders from those events will make the team.
Dierdorff has a tall task in front of him. There were eight U.S. riders in the World Cup’s season-ending standings this season. Dierdorff was sixth in that group, with three Olympians in front of him and one, two-time Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott, right behind him.
“I know I’m capable of being in that top four for the U.S. men,” he said. “It really all comes down to next season, to how those races go.
“I’m so close to getting the results I want. It just comes down to some strategy and some mental stuff.”
No matter how they go, he said he’ll try to enjoy the ride.
“It’s really easy to put too much focus on the Olympics rather than just going out and working hard,” Dierdorff said. “I really want to go into the season without my mind completely wrapped around qualifying, do what I can do, have fun at the races and, hopefull,y the results will come.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9