WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Of all the 2014 Olympians aiming to return to the Winter Games next month, American skier Nolan Kasper's path might be the least traveled.
The Vermont resident missed two full seasons recovering from multiple knee surgeries, and graduated from an Ivy League college at age 28.
On Sunday, Kasper's comeback race in a challenging World Cup slalom in Switzerland was a key step to winning selection for a third straight Olympics.
Kasper overcame the beat-up snow surface typically facing racers that wear No. 52 and earned a second run on a quirky hill. A solid second run placed him 20th.
"It's been a while. To put two runs down, I'll take it," Kasper told The Associated Press minutes after his first World Cup race since January 2015.
Kasper has two more elite races in Austria — at storied Kitzbuehel and a pulsating floodlit race at Schladming — to show coaches he should go to the Pyeongchang Olympics. The entry deadline is Jan. 28 and the men's slalom in South Korea is on Feb. 22.
Still, he has "no idea" of the U.S. team selection rules, despite placing 13th at Sochi four years ago and 24th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"A bunch of other people can figure that out, not me," Kasper said. "It would be great to go there but if that's not to be, it's not really something I'm focusing on."
His main focus is again taking on the best in the World Cup. In 2011, he tied for second in Slovenia, 0.09 seconds behind the next Olympic champion, Mario Matt of Austria.
"If you want to try to ski fast, (the World Cup) is where you've got to prove it," said Kasper, who barely clicked on his skis for two years after a cartilage injury first required surgery.
A prolonged recovery let him speed up completing an economics degree at Dartmouth College he began in 2010.
Kasper graduated last June, and spent time last year working as an intern for U.S. Ski and Snowboard in Park City, Utah.
He returned to training in October, and now has two more weeks to bring his Olympic journey full circle.