EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2014

Flying freestyle

Andover's Annalisa Drew to represent US in half-pipe event

By Bill Burt

---- — Annalisa Drew was named to the U.S. Olympic Ski team last week, the culmination of thousands of hours of jumps, spins and “getting air.”

But, unlike a lot of her skiing brethren heading to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics next week, there never was a life-long dream to be an Olympic skier. She’s not complaining.

Drew says she always skied, most of the time at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, N.H., for selfish reasons.

She loved being around her family, particularly several cousins.

“To this day, I love competing and trying new moves,” said Drew, an Andover native, from her Vail, Colo., apartment. “But the thing I loved most was the weekends with my family and cousins. I had more fun than you could imagine. It’s the reason I skied so much, practically every weekend. I loved being around my family.”

Her family next month is the U.S. Ski Team and their mountain of choice will be at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, about 30 miles from the city of Sochi.

Drew competes in the freestyle half-pipe, which is about “getting air” and acrobatics, things she learned with her cousins, several of which were, like her, from Andover.

Drew, 20, was added to the team after a vote by the committee, which noted her consistency the last few months of the season in five different competitions.

“I was speechless when I got the call from Coach (Ben) Verge,” recalled Drew. “I couldn’t really talk. He just said, ‘You got a spot on the Olympic team.’ I think he said, ‘Wait, you want to hear it again. You’re going to the Olympics.’”

While Drew finished in the top five in nearly every competition, she made a name for herself at the 2013 X Games in Aspen, Colo. and Tignes.

Drew debuted her “1260” in the half-pipe, which is spinning around 3 1/2 times while in the air. Even though she didn’t land it, Drew made history becoming the first woman to attempt one in competition.

As Drew noted, the Olympic dream was not a life-long pursuit. In fact, any of Drew’s Olympic ambitions were on skates, not skis. She started figure skating at about 2.

“I loved figure skating,” she said. “I had so much fun. I was pretty good, but more importantly, I loved it.”

But then something happened in seventh grade. A few of her cousins asked her if she wanted to join the youth ski team at Loon Mountain.

“I had been skiing as long as I’ve been walking, but never competitively,” said Drew, “until I was asked to go out for the ski team.”

Drew kept figure skating and skiing through her freshman year of high school. It was during her sophomore year she convinced her parents skiing was where her heart was.

She wanted to attend a boarding school, New Hampton (N.H.) Prep, where she could ski all winter. Her parents agreed.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I quit skating completely,” said Drew. “I was in heaven skiing every day.”

The irony is that Drew’s figure skating career was not all for naught. Her fascination with free-style skiing, particularly the jumping and spinning parts, might not have been so good if not for her skating career.

“Without question I wouldn’t be going to Sochi if not for skating,” said Drew. “Skating has helped my skiing.”

Drew has put her college plans on a hold, after putting in one year at the University of Maine in Orono.

“I’m on Cloud Nine right now,” said Drew from her apartment in Vail, Colo. “I’m not going with any expectations other doing my best and landing my jumps. After that, who knows? Anything could happen.”

Did you know ... Annalisa Drew, of Andover, is grand-daughter of Woodworth Motors owner, Bill DeLuca. Her father, Bob Drew is President of Auto Use in Andover while her mom is Lisa (DeLuca) Drew.