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Keith St. Onge to ski as a Senior - Is this a Joke?
A Desperate act by Team USA or a selfish act on KSO's part?
by Chuck Gleason


The following announcement was put out this week by ABC President, Cody Heller:

Congratulations to the 2016 US Barefoot Teams
Elites:
Keith St. Onge
Jason Lee
Cody Ebbert
Cody Heller
Jackson Gerard
Ariana Koehler

Juniors:

Brody Meskers
Jackson Gerard
Lexi McCauley
Alex Youngblood

Seniors:

Keith St. Onge
Jason Lee
Teri Jones
Jerry Kanawyer


It's been a long time since I've seen any news in the sport of barefooting that made me sit up and notice.  But when I read the recent announcement from the American Barefoot Club introducing the 2016 Worlds Barefoot Team, I had to take a second look.  Did I really read that KSO is going to compete as a Senior?  This has to be a joke, right??  Isn't Keith St Onge currently the #1 World Overall Ranked Elite skier?  This has to be a joke!

The first thing that came to mind was Lane Bowers.  Lane had never won an Elite World Title, so he competed in the Senior Division to be able to lay his claim to a World Championship, and to this day will tell people he's a World Champ, but leaves out the fact that it wasn't competing against Elite skiers.  It was a total pansy move then, and as far as I'm concerned, a total pansy move today. Was Lane breaking any rules?  Absolutely not!  The rules say that if you're 35, you can compete as a senior. Do you have to compete as a Senior if you're an Elite skier?  No again!  It just all depends on how willing you are to sacrifice your self esteem and reputation for a meaningless medal.  For some, any sacrifice is worth it.  But are moves like this really good for the sport in the long run?  For former World Champions like Scarpa, skiing in the Senior Division while still being able to ski at an Elite level was never an option.  In Scarpa's eyes, the senior division wasn't for a skier that could still ski at the highest levels, especially one still ranked in the top 10 in the world.  I agree with Scarpa on this one.  Does a guaranteed gold medal encourage other competitors to get fired up for 2nd place?  Is it really a way to build interest in the event or drive more people away? 

So this bates the question:  "Why is KSO choosing to ski Senior Division?"   Does he need to pad his trophy case with more meaningless medals?  He's had no US competition to speak of for years and has countless meaningless (just show up and win) US National Gold Medals on his walls.  Maybe if you do it for long enough, you start believing you're really accomplishing something great.  Is there some unknown contest going on that we don't know about?  My pile of medals is taller than yours, so I must be a better skier?   

The only other reason I can come up with for this move is that the US Barefoot Team is worried about getting beat by the Aussies again and this is their way of assuring a victory, no matter how embarrassing it would be perceived.  It is within the rules, and for many people, that justifies the decision.  From the Aussie's POV, this is a great compliment.  It'll take the best Elite skiers the US has to offer to beat the Aussie Senior Team. 

For KSO to show up and compete for an easy win does nothing good for a sport that's already on life support.  Why take the place of a skier that would love to have the opportunity to ski as a Senior?  I just don't understand this move.  It's classless on so many levels.  Keith, I'm sure you have your reasons, but I wish you'd take a step back and consider what this does to your image and the sport as a whole.  Just know, once you do this, you can't take it back.  You'll be doing Lane a big favor.  He'll no longer be the focus of ridicule for such a self centered move.

You may have noticed that Jason Lee is also skiing Elite and Senior.  I'm sure he has his reasons as well.  Jason is great a wakes and jump.  Jason's been out of 3-Event competition long enough that I'd expect him to ski Senior, but at the same time, if he can still put it out there, I'd rather see him pick one or the other.  I've never been a fan of skiers being able to ski multiple divisions.  If the sport is getting so small that it can't field two teams, then just to Elite and be done with it.  Otherwise, allow other skiers to fill the Senior division, even if you do need to provide wheelchairs to get the Seniors to the starting dock.

Come On Barefoot Waterskiing!  Look at how these moves impact your sport and how it could impact it long-term.

Please note:  The views expressed in this article are my own opinions.  Every skier has the right to form their own views and opinions and I'm happy to receive your feedback.  There are plenty of social media outlets to vent your views.  Also, please feel free to email me at cg@barefootcentral.com.

Chuck Gleason
Owner
BarefootCentral.com