Skiing for the Right Audience

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In one of those electrically charged and totally magical Olympic moments, American Jonny Moseley, the 1998 freestyle moguls gold medalist, soared off the end of the jump. Twisting and rotating 720 horizontally in the air, he landed the ostentatious stunt he calls the dinner roll. A crowd of 14,000 in stands perched on the side of a Utah mountain waved flags, clanged cowbells and cheered. Loudly.

Appreciatively. But for all his effort, for all the crowd enthusiasm for all the genius of the move, Moseley ended up fourth — and medal-less — in the competition. In mogul skiing, each of the two tricks, as the jumps are called, account for only 12.5% of the score. "You have to have more than one jump in a race to win," said Janne Lahtela of Finland.

Lahtela won the gold medal with two solid tricks and the fastest speed down the mogul course. Not that he's against flamboyance. "This is show business and you have to please the people," he says. "What Jonny is doing for the sport is good." But you also have to please the judges, the clocks and the calculators who put the scores together. And at that Lahtela proved he is the master.