Four years ago, a 21-year-old from Maine came out of nowhere to push for a spot on the U.S. moguls squad at the Sochi Olympics.

Troy Murphy had two fifth-place finishes in World Cup events in the final days leading up to the team selection, but in the end was left off the team.

Now, with three weeks before the start of the 2018 Olympics, the Bethel native is ranked among the world’s top moguls skiers. And he’s determined to be one of the team members selected early next week to compete in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I was so close last time,” said Murphy, 25, a 2010 graduate of Gould Academy. “And when you’re that close, it makes you realize how much you want to go. I realize how much hard work it takes to go and come home with a medal. It’s been my goal for four years now and it would be great to get there.”

Murphy, who began skiing as a 10-year-old, was the top-rated skier on the U.S. moguls team entering the World Cup season. Steven Earl Photography

Matt Gnoza, coach of the U.S. moguls team, has high hopes for Murphy, ranked 13th in the world heading into the final pre-Olympics competition this weekend. Murphy was the top-rated skier on the U.S. moguls team entering the World Cup season.

“I still see him as our No. 1 guy,” Gnoza said last week, “and our best hope for a medal going in.”

Murphy has had an up-and-down season on the World Cup circuit. He earned his first World Cup podium finish by placing third in Thiwoo, China, on Dec. 21, and followed that by placing eighth the next day. But he has struggled lately. He was 36th in Calgary, Alberta, on Jan. 6. Then, competing at his favorite course at Deer Valley in Utah, he finished 14th and 39th on back-to-back days last week.

Troy Murphy

“It was a tough week,” Murphy said of the Deer Valley races. “Tiny little mistakes. The margins of error are so small, it’s got to be pretty much perfect.

“But I’m still feeling pretty good. I’ve just got to put the last couple of weeks behind me. I feel I’m still in a good place.”

The U.S. freestyle ski team – which includes moguls, aerials, halfpipe skiing and slope-style skiing – will be named early next week after the World Cup event this weekend in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. A maximum of four male moguls skiers could be chosen, though only two were picked to go to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

If Murphy makes the team, he will join three other Maine natives who will compete at the PyeongChang Olympics: biathletes Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth) and Russell Currier (Stockholm), and luger Emily Sweeney (Falmouth).

Murphy, who lives and trains in Park City, Utah, is one of only two American moguls skiers to reach the World Cup podium so far this season. Bradley Wilson had a third at Deer Valley last week. Another podium finish in Quebec would secure Murphy’s spot on the team, but he’s not dwelling on that.

“It’s probably there subconsciously. I mean, I always want to be on the podium,” he said. “I’ve just got to trust my skills and trust myself and get rid of any doubt. Just ski my run and not think about anything else.”

Moguls skier Troy Murphy is ranked 13th going into a World Cup event this weekend in Quebec. “I still see him … as our best hope for a medal,” said Matt Gnoza, coach of the U.S. moguls team. Photo by Kirk Paulsen

Murphy’s strength always has been his jumping. In moguls, a skier races down the mountain over a series of bumps that include two jumps – one midway and one at the bottom – in which the skiers can twist or turn or flip. Jumps account for 20 percent of a skier’s score. Murphy always has had a high-degree of difficulty in his jumps – he has, as Gnoza calls it, “the wow factor” – which can give him an edge in competitions. Among his jumps is a corkscrew 1080 on the bottom jump, one of the most difficult jumps in moguls.

“It’s the same as the guys that are winning,” Gnoza said of Murphy’s degree of difficulty. “He has that going for him and, you know, his demeanor. Through the highs and the lows, he stays collected and calm and focused on the task at hand.”

Jeff Yingling, who was Murphy’s first coach at Gould Academy, sees Murphy as the biggest challenger to Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury, universally recognized as the world’s best moguls skier. Kingsbury has won 48 World Cup competitions – the most of any freestyle skier in history.

“He is the only person, I think, who can beat Kingsbury,” said Yingling, now the freestyle moguls coach at the Telluride Ski Club in Colorado. “He is capable of a higher degree of difficulty than Kingsbury, and I think he can put the pressure on Kingsbury.”

Gnoza said he has seen Murphy mature over the years, not just on the mountainside but also as a person.

“He no longer has to over-analyze when he’s skiing,” Gnoza said. “Things are happening more naturally to him. He’s worked on things, paid attention to detail, and that has helped with his weaknesses.

“He has a plan every day that he executes. That planning and preparation and attention to detail is what has grown for him the last couple of years.” Murphy didn’t start skiing until he was 10, when Yingling saw him riding dirt bikes. Yingling noticed that Murphy was pretty good in the air on the dirt bikes and figured he might do the same in moguls.

Once he joined the Gould Academy ski club, skiing became his passion. He even gave up soccer for it.

“Troy has put so much into it,” said his father, Matt Murphy, who works at Gould Academy. “It’s his passion. He loves the whole thing about it, the traveling, the training, the competition. Everything.”

That also includes fundraising. When Murphy was trying to make the U.S. team, he had to pay for most expenses for training, travel and competing – and it got to be expensive once he became good enough to go to European events. “It was a full-time job for him,” Matt Murphy said of the fundraising. “In the summer, he was expected to hit the snow at least once a month, so that involved travel. And he had to come up with the money.”

The Murphys would hold an auction each winter, and items included pottery that Murphy created himself. They were often among the most sought-after items. They also would hold a golf tournament each year to raise money. This summer, 95 golfers participated, raising enough money so that Troy Murphy could give some back to the Sunday River Ski and Snowboard Club. Troy Murphy never looked at raising money as an issue.

“I’m super grateful for everything,” he said. “I’m really glad I had to figure out fundraising because it connected me with so many people and really gave me life skills that will be helpful later on.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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