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|Taylor Seaton at this year's Winter X 15.|
Last year, Taylor Seaton broke his ankle on a trampoline in the fall, only to return to competition at Winter X in January 2010, where he landed on his ski pole during a practice run, lacerating his liver. After a stint in an Aspen hospital, he made it back in time for the 2010 World Skiing Invitational (WSI) in Whistler, where he took third.
This week, he'll return to Whistler for this year's WSI, which is also the AFP World Championships. "I've competed (at WSI) multiple years, and it can either be a pretty bad event or the best event depending on what the spring weather brings," Seaton said. "When the sun is shining, it's one of my favorite competitions because it's super soft and a good place to try some new tricks."
Recognized for his long grabs, compact posture and amplitude in the halfpipe, Seaton is on two missions: help advance the way halfpipe skiing is judged and make the U.S. Olympic team in 2014. "Now that (Olympic halfpipe skiing) is legit, my mind seems clear and I know exactly what I want my future to be," says Seaton, a 20-year-old from Edwards, Colo. "It gives me a lot more motivation knowing that it's possible because the Olympics will definitely be the best of the best, competition-wise."
Finishing 10th in the elimination round at the this year's Winter X in superpipe (fourth for Americans), Seaton believes he has a good shot at representing the U.S. for ski halfpipe in Sochi, less than three years from now. Although mindful of the younger competitors rapidly making their way through the halfpipe ranks, he's optimistic that 2014 will mark an ideal balance between skill and experience for him.
Judges agree. "I had the pleasure this year of not only judging Taylor in the halfpipe, but also had a day in France to go ski some lines with him," said Winter X Europe judge Mike Atkinson. "What constantly impresses me about Taylor, both in and out of the pipe, is his ability to look at things just a bit differently -- the way he selects a line, the way he drops in. With this creative outlook, stellar control, smooth style and sheer talent, Taylor will be one to watch moving forward toward the Sochi Olympics."
Seaton was able to maintain a top-15 world ranking this year, but fell short of cracking into the top five -- a goal he will pursue next season. He said his best run of the year was at Winter X 15, where he threw six tricks, spinning both ways switch and alley-oop.
"Next season, it's a matter of going in with a better game plan, as far as how much time I spend on snow, in the halfpipe, in the gym, and working with the ski tech," Seaton says.
In the end though, his priorities stay the same. "You have to remember to keep it fun," he says. "If you watch ski movies from back in the day, those guys were always having fun. So I try to keep a smile on my face, because that's what it's all about."