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SKIING / BOB LOCHNER : He Won’t Relinquish High-Flying Routine

As one of the world’s most frequent--and fearless--fliers, Trace Worthington had never missed a connection, until a couple of weeks ago at Lake Placid, N.Y.

That’s when he landed on his head.

The incident has caused Worthington, who prefers touching down on skis, to take a step back and check out his controls.

Luckily, he was able to step back without too much physical pain. Mentally, he’s still in self-analysis.

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“I had a bad training jump and it shook me up a little bit,” Worthington said the other day from his home in Park City, Utah. “I’m trying to get my head together, get things moving in the right direction, so I can get back out there. . . . My mind-set really isn’t into jumping.”

By jumping, Worthington means freestyle aerials competition, in which he soars as high as 50 feet off a snow bank and performs tricks such as his signature quadruple twisting triple--four twists and three somersaults--while airborne.

At Lake Placid, he said, “I landed backwards but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t aware of. That’s why I hate to say it was a really big, bad crash, because I kind of went up in the air and I knew where my body position was, and I said, ‘Aw, shoot, I’m backwards.’ . . . To the average person, it looked pretty extreme. To me, it’s very minor.”

A similar mishap occurred the week before during an exhibition for NBC-TV, and Worthington, 27, said, “I’d never had any real crashes in my career until then, so when it happens two times in a row, I get shook up a little more.

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“It’s kind of weird, because in our sport, I haven’t seen it happen to too many people. Unlike other sports, when you’re kind of off a little bit--like in golf if your swing is off--it’s not as critical. For us, when we’re off, we’re obviously high in the air, and you can get hurt pretty bad.”

Worthington, who last season became the first skier to win two gold medals in the World Freestyle Championships and two World Cup titles, in both aerials and combined, has been doing inverted aerials since he was 16 and skiing freestyle since he was a youngster of 8 in Minneapolis.

“I was the kid looking for every single mogul to jump off,” he said. “Then when I was 13, we moved to Colorado, and I attended [former U.S. coach] Park Smalley’s freestyle camp at Steamboat Springs.”

He has become proficient in all three freestyle events--aerials, moguls and acro (formerly called ballet), but said, “This year, I’ve decided to concentrate on aerials and build up my jumping for the next two years to get ready for 1998. I’m really hungry for that, but I also want to defend my world title.”

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Aerials and moguls will be Olympic events again in the ’98 Winter Games at Nagano, Japan, which will also be the site of the next World Freestyle Championships, a year from now.

Worthington finished fifth in the ’94 Olympic aerials competition at Lillehammer, Norway.

“I didn’t jump to my potential,” he said. “I dragged my hand when I landed and that cost me. The sport has become so technical with such perfection demanded that the judges deduct for the slightest mistake.”

The Freestyle World Cup tour continues this weekend at Breckenridge, Colo., then moves to Mont Tremblant, Quebec, before returning to Europe in February and March.

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Worthington did not compete at either Lake Placid or last week at Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., but hopes to jump at Breckenridge. He has been discussing his problem with U.S. Coach Wayne Hilterbrand and sports psychologist Dan Gould.

“I was never a firm believer in sports psychology, but I figured maybe it was time I talked to one,” Worthington said. “Just take the positive things out of it and utilize them. Always before, I was on a roll, winning everything, and figured the last thing I needed was to talk to a psychologist.”

Skiing Notes

U.S. skiers continued their moguls domination last weekend at Whistler/Blackcomb. Donna Weinbrecht won the women’s division and is tied with Candice Gilg of France and Tatjana Mittermayer of Germany atop the standings with 292 points apiece. Jonny Moseley and Jim Moran finished 1-2, and Moran leads the men’s race with 288 points, followed by Fabrice Ougier of France with 272, Moseley with 260 and American Troy Benson with 244. . . . New snow fell in the High Sierra early this week, adding at least three inches to the base at Mammoth Mountain, eight-12 at Kirkwood, four-six at Heavenly and Alpine Meadows and six-12 at Squaw Valley. . . . Bear Mountain, Snow Summit and Snow Valley and Mountain High continue to operate daily in the Southland.

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Swiss racer Michael Von Gruenigen’s victory in Tuesday’s giant slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland, moved him into second place in the Alpine World Cup standings with 690 points, 266 behind injured leader Lass Kjus of Norway. Alberto Tomba of Italy also sat out the race, saying, “I can hardly breathe” because of flu, and is third with 616. The men are at Wengen, Switzerland, this weekend. . . . Martina Ertl of Germany has 772 points, 57 more than Anita Wachter of Austria, and leads the women, who will race next at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.


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