John Teller will turn 30 in a few days and now has an extra reason to celebrate after winning Friday's skicross Grand Prix in Park City, Utah.
"I like to say I'm 30 years young," Teller said. "I'm still 18 at heart, though."
Of course, seeing two of his teenage skicross students alongside him on the podium Friday no doubt made him feel a tad older.
Teller used to coach Tyler Wallasch in football back in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., which both call home. On Friday he had the 18-year-old chasing him down Doc's Run at Canyons Resort for second place on the podium. Stanley Hayer of Kimberley, B.C., was third in the competition in Park City, Utah.
Another Mammoth Lakes product, 18-year-old Madeline Riffel, claimed second in the women's final but won the U.S. title as the top American finisher.
"John Teller is kind of my idol and mentor and got me in the sport," Wallasch said. "[Sharing a podium] honestly, growing up, is what you kind of dream of. It's a dream come true and hopefully I can keep it going, and keep up with him."
Riffel, who has been in Teller's skicross camp the past two years, was lucky to stay up on her skis in the women's final.
She had no chance of catching reigning six-time world champion Ophelie David of France, who made another fast start and avoided the wreckage behind her in a crash-filled afternoon. Riffel nearly went off the course in the finals and had to pull herself forward on her skis to avoid going into the protective barricades.
"I didn't think I had a shot [after nearly falling]," she said. "When I crossed the finish line, I saw Ophie and nobody else and was so excited."
Langely McNeal, who won the U.S. Grand Prix title last year, wasn't so lucky after India Sherret slid across the tails of her skis and spun her out in the finals.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little crushed, but it's pretty cool to see Maddie get it," McNeal said of the U.S. title.
Wallasch, meanwhile, got his fall out of the way during a training run Friday.
Feeling a bit sore
"I got a little close to the net and didn't want to do it again," Wallasch said, still feeling a bit sore. "I got my confidence back after the first heat and felt better."
He wouldn't have made the finals were it not for a key pass in the semifinal heat.
"I was in third and had to reach for the finish," Wallasch said. "I missed my chance at the top of the course to pass. I had to be patient and was lucky to have a chance at the bottom and was able to capitalize on it."
Teller just kept it clean and fast, especially with the conditions as they were.
"Sometimes it's better to sit back and wait for the draft," he said. "This is a pretty narrow course and conditions were pretty soft, so it was hard to make a pass and make it stick. You wanted to get out in front and stay out there."
When he got to the bottom, family and friends greeted the avid duck hunter with celebratory duck calls.
Afterward he had plans to celebrate his birthday in Park City before departing Sunday for Norway and the world championships.
"I'd like to think I'm a favourite," said Teller, who won a World Cup earlier this year. "Things are starting to roll right now with my confidence and the way I'm skiing. Worlds are a different show than here. You've got to keep your head in it and know you can do it."
David certainly knows that, and used the Grand Prix as a tune-up for worlds, and as a way to get in some training during a national holiday back home.
Friday, the 36-year-old's only mistake came on the podium, where she nearly stepped off the back and fell as she collected her trophy and prize money.
"I came here without any pressure," said David, who has a 13-year-old daughter racing back in France. "It helps."