Relighting the fire within, day 5: Jonny Moseley and the 'dinner roll' change the sport of mogul skiing
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of daily articles that will take a look at some of the athletic highlights of the 2002 Games and the athletes who gave us those moments.
PARK CITY — It still takes Jonny Moseley by surprise when people recognize him for the Olympic medal that he didn't win.
"That's what I'm most surprised about," said Moseley, who won a gold medal in mogul skiing in 1998 and then finished fourth on Feb. 13, 2002 at Deer Valley. "People come up to me all the time and say, 'I remember the Dinner Roll. You got robbed.'
Moseley didn't set out to be an activist when he created an of axis trick that he called the Dinner Roll in 1999. He came up with the trick for a Big Air contest in the Winter X Games after he won the Olympic Gold medal in moguls in Nagano. He was simply doing what freestyle skiers have always done — innovating — when he submitted the trick to FIS officials hoping to use it to compete in 2002.
"Each trick is assigned a point value, and my mistake was that I didn't push for it to be worth more, so it was worth the same number of points as easier tricks," he said. "I don't regret doing it, and I do appreciate the result; the sport changed quickly after that."
The Dinner Roll thrilled fans at Deer Valley, but what most spectators weren't aware of is that navigating moguls quickly and cleanly was more valuable than landing the thrilling 720 that looked a little like Mosely might land on his back instead of his skis. His teammate Travis Mayer, 19, won a silver medal for the U.S. that day.
Now retired from the sport and working as a commentator, Moseley said there is a bit of mythology that grew out of the Dinner Roll controversy.
At the time, the trick was so popular fans were upset — and made their displeasure known — that he wasn't scored higher. He finished fourth in men's moguls to athletes who skied faster, cleaner but who performed easier tricks.
He said he didn't compete with the dinner roll for any other reason than that he enjoyed it, he felt it pushed the sport's boundaries and, most importantly, he thought it would help him win another Olympic medal.
"My main purpose was not altruistic," he said. "I was trying to win, but I did feel a bit of a need to push the sport forward a little bit."
He came up with the Dinner Roll while participating in free skiing and X Games in the years he took off from moguls. He felt the sport was getting stagnant.
"I saw the whole sport from a broader perspective," he said. "I saw where skiing was going, and I just saw my beloved mogul skiing completely getting left in the dust."
He did not enjoy finishing fourth, but he is proud of how the following year, officials not only allowed off-axis and inverted tricks, they scored them higher.
"I love the legacy of it," Moseley said. "I think there is a little bit of a myth out there that if I would have done something differently, I wold have won a medal. I wasn't sacrificing myself; I truly thought I could win with the dinner roll. And I still think it was the right thing to do."
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