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Photograph of Tyler Jewell

"I'm 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."

Toby Lester

Toby Lester is a freelance writer based in Boston.

Photo: Lee Pellegrini

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