VALMALENCO, Italy - Considring the kind of competition she was facing, second place is just fine to Zyre Austin.
"It definitely feels good," the 19-year-old said by text message from Italy after taking silver in the halfpipe skiing event at the FIS Freestyle Junior World Championships on Thursday morning. "I really wanted first, but that's OK."
Austin, a Glenwood Springs native, became the highest United States finisher in the women's halfpipe. Nina Ragettli of Switzerland, a 10-year freestyle veteran ranked 14th in the World Cup Rankings and a member of Volkl's international team, took gold.
"All of the hard work has finally paid off," her father and manager, Dan Villemaire, said by phone Thursday afternoon. "I'm so happy for her. Now she's getting all of these sponsorship offers. It's like a kid graduating from college. Now she has a career and a bona-fide career in skiing."
Austin, a Yampah Mountain High School graduate, was second in front of Rowan Cheshire of Great Britan and Elizavetta Chesnokova of Russia.
Hannah Haupt of the United States was the next highest finisher, taking fifth with a score of 63.8.
Austin netted her top score in the first of her two runs, taking the lead with a score of 74. Ragettli earned her winning score of 83.2 in her second and final run.
It made a big difference that Austin had a coach prior to a competition for the first time. Ben Verge, a developmental coach for the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), had been working with her since she arrived in Italy early in the week.
"It made a huge difference," Austin said.
Among the tricks Austin was able to land were an unnatural down-the-pipe 360, a 540 and a switch 360. A 360 indicates one full rotation in the air. A switch indicates going down the slope backwards.
The finish is the highest accomplishment for Austin, whose previous-best finish came as the champion of the women's halfpipe at the Freestyle Skiing Junior Nationals in Steamboat Springs.
Villemaire said that with the sponsorship offers Austin has received, there's talk about her possibly making the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, from Feb. 7 to 23.
"There's a lot that has to go right and a lot that has to happen before that could be a possibility, though," Villemaire said.