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A true amateur (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 6:05PM; Updated: Thursday February 23, 2006 11:11AM
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Yet another friend, 1992 Olympic sailing silver medalist Kevin Mahaney, gave him a travel budget in exchange for coaching his three sons, and gave him money to buy the best equipment available. "He knew my stuff was pretty ragtag," says Jewell. "I stuck to the deal and didn't spend it on anything else, because he knew I'd squirrel it away and spend it on Power Bars." To save money for training and racing, Jewell spent last summer living out of a tent in Steamboat Springs and eating meals at the Yampa Valley Hospital nearby for $2.50.

Already stretched thin financially, Jewell thought he might break when his spot on the Olympic team, earned by virtue of ninth- and 24th-place finishes in two World Cup events, was challenged in court last month by one of the darlings of the 2002 Games. Chris Klug, who had a liver transplant in 2000 and became the first transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal when he won bronze in the parallel giant slalom, felt his 15th- and 16th-place finishes should trump Jewell's higher number of World Cup points. An arbitration judge ruled in Jewell's favor, but the tab for his legal fees came to $20,000.


Mahaney picked up that up, too. "Kevin came through for me again," says Jewell. "He has been my support."

Though he was a long shot to win a medal in the PGS -- the gold went to Philipp Schoch of Switzerland, who beat his brother Simon in the final run -- Jewell hopes U.S. audiences tuned in. "I don't think the event gets enough exposure in the U.S.," he says. "I think it's an awesome sport, and obviously I've been willing to live out of my car and eat meals out of hospitals and sell sausages because I love what I'm doing."

He thinks others -- even those snowboarders who have earned money and fame in other events -- will learn to love it too. "I believe the sport is in a cycle right now," says Jewell. "Snowboarding is still so young. Those guys in the halfpipe are going to be able to go 50 feet in the air for only so long. But they are going to be able to carve a snowboard their whole life. And so once they start growing older, they are going to start wanting to turn."

Meanwhile, Jewell plans to continue to carry the banner for American PGS as long and as far as he can. If no sponsors come knocking after his ninth-place finish, he'll face more financial hurdles. But in a way, he is looking forward to the challenge. "What made the Olympic experience worth it was going through all that stuff beforehand," he says. "It's the journey, it's not the outcome."

At least for now, it's not the income, either.