a man on a mission," Tyler Jewell says. "I'm one-track." He says
this wearing a colorful skin-tight full-body ski-racing suit. Jewell
is a snowboarder, one of the country's best--not a trick jumper with
a nose ring and an attitude, but a serious racer. And he's been
traveling all over the world with a simple goal: to qualify for
the 2002 Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake City. "If I work really hard
at it," he says, "it's mine for the taking. I hope that doesn't
sound cocky or obnoxious. I just believe in myself. I want to prove
myself the best in the world."
Jewell grew up outside of Boston. He started ski racing at age four
or five, and at 10 he switched to snowboarding. As a teenager he
practiced the sport in his spare time, without formal coaching,
and by the time he finished high school he had twice placed among
the top 20 in the Junior World Snowboarding Championships.
Then he graduated. "I was at a crossroads," he says. "Snowboarding
or college?" With a strong nudge from his parents he came to BC,
where he played varsity lacrosse and graduated, in 1999, with a
degree from the Lynch School of Education. For four years he essentially
gave up snowboarding. "Going to BC was hard," he says, "but figuring
out how to do well academically gave me a lot of confidence. I realized:
If I can do well in college, which I did, then I can do anything
I want. So now I'm going after the Olympics."
Things are looking good. Jewell is currently ranked fourth in the
country. He'll be training all summer and trying to peak for next
year's five qualifying races, from which three or four snowboarders
will be chosen for the U.S. team. He's found one corporate sponsor--Welch's,
the juice maker--and is doing everything he can to find others. (A
year's worth of training, travel, and competition is likely to cost
him about $30,000.)
During the past six months, Jewell's devotion to his cause has taken
him to competitions in Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy,
Japan, and Sweden, and all over the United States. Last summer he
traveled to Chile, too, and before that he spent several months
training in Oregon, living in a tent and working weekends catering
to make ends meet. "I hated that," he says, referring to the catering.
"But at least I ate well once a week."
Lester is a freelance writer based in Boston.
Photo: Lee Pellegrini