U.S. National Team member Dani Loeb dreams of qualifying for next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, and she hopes she’s able to do it with her own skis.
That became a slim possibility this week when police arrested two men suspected of stealing the Olympic hopeful’s skis and other equipment from her mother’s pickup truck last month in Atlanta.
Kelvin Lanier Evans and Andre Jermaine Pitts were both arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal trespass and entering automobile with intent to commit theft or felony stemming from the theft report, according to police records.
Loeb, 20, has been a member of the national team for two years, competing in the aerial freestyle. She spent much of this week in Park City, Utah, training for a freestyle international World Cup. The competition, scheduled to be held Tuesday on the slopes of the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, is the last qualifying event before the Olympics begin.
Loeb’s Olympic chances took an unexpected blow Dec. 15 when suspects stole two pair of skis from her mother’s vehicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Also stolen were some of Loeb’s U.S. ski team bags, uniforms, a jumping suit, two overcoats and other gear like a massage gun that she uses to warm up before events, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.
Afterward, Loeb and her supporters pleaded for those responsible to return the gear, noting the skis gave her the best possible chance to qualify for the Winter Olympics, which are slated to begin Feb. 4.
Loeb acknowledged that she’s superstitious in her craft and said athletes often do different things to fine-tune their equipment to their liking. That helps them find a mental edge in competition.
“It’s just really important for you to have your own equipment so that it’s what you like and it’s what works best for you,” Loeb said.
Loeb was still on a flight back from Finland after competing in a World Cup event when the thieves struck. Loeb’s mother had parked her Chevrolet 3500 pickup in a deck on Peachtree Street. Police said surveillance footage showed two men park next to the truck before breaking in, swiping the items and driving off.
Police identified Evans and Pitts from the footage, which showed them using a flashlight to peek into the pickup before breaking in, a police report indicated.
Police stopped a car Pitts was driving the day after the alleged theft and he gave officers a false name, the report said. But officers noted he was wearing the same Nike hat he was seen wearing on the surveillance cameras. Evans, who was also in the vehicle during the traffic stop, had on the same ski mask he was wearing while breaking into the pickup, according to police.
Records show Pitts, 38, of Atlanta, also had a warrant out of Gwinnett County. Evans, a 36-year-old Hapeville man, also faced charges out of Fulton County stemming from a pair of Dec. 19 incidents.
Loeb admitted she was surprised police tracked down the alleged thieves.
“I know a lot of times when things get stolen, it’s not likely that you find out who did it because there are other worse things to worry about,” she said. “So I was really shocked that they actually got the guys.”
In the meantime, the national ski team gave her new apparel and a friend airbrushed her a personalized helmet. Loeb said she bought a pair of skis from one of her former teammates who gets his skis tuned up similar to hers.
Loeb hasn’t heard anything from Atlanta police on whether the skis and equipment have been recovered. She remained hopeful that her skis will be returned, but said she really wants her overcoat back because those are hard to replace.
“If they did end up pawning my stuff and someone bought my jacket, it would be very kind if they would just give me my jacket back,” Loeb said.