What a difference a few months can make.
At the outset of this year’s World Cup campaign, Mammoth’s John Teller had his hat out collecting donations just so he could compete on the circuit this year, and ESPN announcers Chris Ernst and Keir Dillon at X Games this past weekend referred to Teller as a “privateer” – a guy largely paying his own way to compete on tour versus having corporate sponsorship.
That likely all changed with Teller’s thrilling victory last Sunday in Men’s Skier Cross at the X Games in Aspen, where Teller beat prohibitive favorite Chris Del Bosco by half a ski length in the final.
Teller was the only skier in the field who got anywhere close to Del Bosco all day.
Del Bosco won his quarterfinal heat by nearly a second, an eternity in ski racing.
Teller, meanwhile, mistimed a jump at the start of his quarterfinal heat and from my vantage point on the couch, with Teller’s limbs spread-eagle in all directions as he sought to maintain his balance, it looked like he might fall and become an early casualty.
Teller righted himself, but at the cost of dropping from 2nd to 4th place (the top three finishers advanced to the semifinal round).
He ultimately made a slick pass toward the bottom of the course and placed second.
When The Sheet reached Teller via telephone at a steakhouse in Deer Valley, Utah on Wednesday, we asked whether Teller had been in danger of losing before he ever had a chance of winning.
“I wasn’t gonna fall,” he said flatly. “I just had the timing off.”
In the semifinal, Del Bosco and Teller were 1-2 out of the gate and stayed that way from start-to-finish. Teller had an opportunity to pass on the upper part of the course, but decided discretion was the better part of valor, as again, he only had to finish in the top three to advance to the final.
In the final, Del Bosco and Teller again came out of the gate 1-2.
This time, however, Teller, drafting behind Del Bosco, made a bid to pass.
“I made the move at the right time and somehow got through,” he said during a post-race interview with ESPN’s Jamie Little.
But watching the replay, it somehow gets a little more scientific. Teller just got lower than Del Bosco and was better able to maintain his speed through the pass.
The rest of the post-race interview went like this.
Little: You just became the first American to win a World Cup skier cross. Now you come here and take the gold. Where do you come from?
Little: How doers a mechanic go from working every day to being a gold medalist?
Teller: It just shows hard work in life, no matter what you do, it always pays off.
The camera then panned to his mother Debbie crying tears of joy in the crowd.
Standing next to mom was Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory, who’s never one to pass up a marketing opportunity. As the camera panned to him, Gregory smiled and pointed to the Mammoth logo on his jacket.
Little then threw the narrative back to play-by-play annpouncer Chris Ernst, who generally has no trouble babbling endlessly.
This time, all a stunned Ernst could say was “I don’t know what to say, exactly.”
That’s how much of a prohibitive favorite Del Bosco was. “The man we thought no one could beat,” admitted Ernst.
But sometimes, real life produces its own Rocky Balboas.
Teller will try to build on his Cinderella season this Friday at the World Championships in Deer Valley.
Teller qualified 9th on Thursday.