PARK CITY, UTAH — Bethel native Troy Murphy is on the road to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Murphy is a mogul skier, ranked eighth in the world by the International Ski Federation and number one in the US.
Mogul skiing is an event that combines racing down a series of small mounds on a mountainside in a serpentine fashion with two jumps from which competitors perform aerial maneuvers.
It was that very love of flying through the air that brought middle schooler Murphy to the attention of Jeffery Yingling, then the head coach of skiing at Gould Academy.
Murphy recounts, “My parents were both skiers, but not very avid skiers I would say. I actually got into in because as a kid growing up we were actually really into motor-cross riding, like, dirt-bikes.” Motor-cross similarly involves practitioners launching themselves airborne during their run.
Murphy continues, “We were riding the track we had behind my grandfather’s house one day, and the head ski coach from Gould Academy, which is my school in my hometown in Bethel, he saw me riding and suggested that I try moguls, that’s kinda how it happened.”
Murphy decided to give it a try, “I did the weekend program at Sunday River for a couple weekends and just got hooked; and the rest is history from there.”
Mogul skiing is not a race, but it is a timed and judged event. Competitors must make their way down the mountain covered in obstructively designed bumps as quickly as they can while judges are watching the skier’s technique in navigating the moguls. This accounts for 60 percent of the athlete’s score. Twenty percent of their score is based on speed, and the last 20 on the aerial maneuvers.
Murphy is recently back from Thaiwoo, China, where he took third place on Dec 21 and eighth on Dec 22.
“It was my second time in China and I had a pretty good result there last year too,” said Murphy. “I got fourth, so I really wanted to come back and do better.” He did. His skiing that landed him third place also scored him his first time on the podium. Murphy says of his improved performance, “Yeah, the course was really nice, the weather was really good, and I was skiing well the whole time. I was happy to be really consistent, put down a bunch of runs, and come away with a podium.”
Murphy will be competing again this Saturday, Jan. 6, in Calgary, Canada, where the event was first aired as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics. It has been a regular event since the following Winter Olympics. From there he will return stateside for a qualifying event in Deer Valley, Utah, Jan. 10 and 11. Finally, Murphy will be off to Tremblant, Quebec for his final preliminary event on Jan 20, before waiting two days to discover whether he will be competing for team USA in an announcement on Jan 21.
When he is not fighting for a spot to the Olympics, Murphy, like other promising Olympic hopefuls, is training at Park City, Utah; weather permitting. Winter Olympians have had to travel to Europe in recent years to train on glaciers abroad because of the lack of snow here, according to media reports.
Murphy also had comments concerning climate change. “Global warming is super scary to me and I definitely think we should be paying a lot more attention to it … to ensure that it [skiing] is still a thing and future generations get to ski.”
Training hard, Murphy does not pay particularly close attention to his rating. “I don’t even know what my ranking is. I don’t really pay much attention to that,” Murphy said.
Although he admits, “everyone is thinking about that [beating current leader Mikahl Kingsbury] … I want to win everything.”
“For me the thing to put my focus on isn’t really the result, it’s in being prepared and being ready to put down your run when it counts, so that you can take every opportunity,” Murphy continued.
Murphy is well known for his feats in the air, even saying himself, “I’ve always kinda like had this natural love for jumping so that’s probably my strong suit.”
Because jumping accounts for only one fifth of the overall score, Murphy has been emphasizing his skiing.
“We ski every month of the year, the skiing has been kinda my focus lately,” Murphy said.
Murphy reports that he put, “a ton of time,” into the mogul section, which has since, “paid off quite a bit.” Murphy explains that when he did not have the financial position to go ride moguls and mountains was when he developed his gymnastic ability and “focus on jumping.”
Whenever Murphy does have down-time, he uses it go skiing.
“We get some time off in April and I’ll go usually with some buddies and well rent an RV and some snowmobiles, and we’ll go to Alaska and just go free skiing for a month,” said Murphy.
Murphy’s digression from mogul skiing includes some provocative winter activity, such as “powder surfing.” There are no binding holding a rider to the board as in a snowboard, rather, “(it) is like surfing on snow instead of the water.”
Murphy has not forgotten that his Olympic journey started in western Maine. He has held fundraisers and volunteered back home and wishes to confer “how much I appreciate the support from up there. Both the Sunday River and Gould communities have been a large part in me getting here. So yeah, thanks everyone for all the help.” Murphy also mentioned that Norway Savings Bank is, “a huge supporter of mine in Maine.”
Murphy can be watched vying for a qualifying spot this Saturday, Jan. 6 in Calgary as his road to qualify to compete in Pyeongchang draws to its conclusion.