SOCHI, Russia -- As a general rule, snow falls in the British Virgin Islands about once every Ice Age. The temperature on the idyllic chain of Caribbean islands east of Puerto Rico rarely dips below 75 degrees and the only ice to be found is in the form of cubes, cooling the drinks of sunburned tourists.
So, naturally, when Peter Adam Crook and his parents approached the BVI Olympic Committee and asked to form a ski association so that he could compete internationally and attempt to qualify for the Olympics, they were met with puzzled looks.
Water-skiing? In the Olympic Games?
"Obviously," Crook said, "they had never seen halfpipe skiing."
BVI, meet your second-ever Winter Olympian. The 21-year-old Crook follows in the footsteps of the late Errol Spence, a speedskater who competed at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
On Feb. 18, many of the 23,000 inhabitants of Tortola, the territory's biggest island, will head to their lanais, fire up their satellite TVs and watch in wide-eyed wonder as Crook shreds the gnarly halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, half a world away.
But how did he manage to join the Jamaican bobsledders as the toast of the Caribbean?
Now, there's a story. And, of course, it involves Wisconsin.
Crook's mother, Lin, was born and raised in Lake Geneva. She met Barney Crook in the BVI while working as the first mate on a charter cruise. Long story short, she wound up being Barney's first mate and moved to Tortola to help run his business, TMM Yacht Charters, which also has fleets in Belize and the Grenadines.
When the Crooks' three children reached school age, Lin wanted them to have more educational opportunities than were available on Tortola, so in 2001 the family moved to Lake Geneva. Lin and Barney ran TMM Yacht Charters from Wisconsin and still maintain an office and an apartment in Lake Geneva, though they returned to Tortola several years ago.
Adam -- he goes by his middle name -- started in the third grade at Woods School and learned to ski at the Grand Geneva Resort. He also skied at Sunburst and Alpine Valley with the Badger High School ski race team.
"When we first moved there it was the second time in my life that I'd seen snow and I didn't remember the first time," he said. "I started to love it pretty quickly. I started skiing and fell in love with that right off the bat."
Halfway through his freshman year at Badger, Crook moved to Crested Butte, Colo., to attend the IMG Academy, a sort of prep school for skiers and snowboarders. By then he was flashing talent on the slopes but had never tried halfpipe.
"They had one at Lake Geneva, but it was tiny. It was like 6 feet tall and hand-shoveled and there was only one part where you could get air," he said. "Obviously, when I got to Colorado I'd never really done it before and it was new and exciting. After I tried it, within a week I had a full halfpipe run.
"I guess I kind of had a knack for it."
With the help of the BVI Olympic Committee, the Crooks established the BVI Ski Association, of which Adam is the sole team member. Lin is the secretary and Barney is the treasurer (as federation officials, they got to march in the opening ceremony with their son).
Thus eligible to compete internationally, Crook made steady progress. He finished 14th at the 2013 FIS World Championships in March and then qualified for the Olympics by finishing 10th at a World Cup in New Zealand in August. He is ranked 27th in the world by the Association of Freeski Professionals.
In Sochi, he said, "My biggest goal is to make it through to the final round for halfpipe. That's what will be on TV. I would like to be recognized with that group of athletes. I just want to go and have a lot of fun."
Crook, who lives and trains in Park City, Utah, said attention to his story was "picking up" in the BVI, but he shied away from comparisons with the Jamaican bobsledders, who inspired the movie "Cool Runnings."
"I keep getting that a lot," he said. "I have nothing but respect for those guys. They were able to do some training in Jamaica and I have not been able to train in the BVI at all."
A little snow would help. But it'll be a cold day in Tortola when that happens.
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