You know it’s bad when it’s 29 degrees and snowing outside and you feel like that’s warm.
The last couple weeks have been brutal in the East coast. We’ve been in negative temperatures for the majority of those days, and it’s nice being back in Tahoe. I have about 3 days here, then we’re all off to Calgary for the next stop. The rest of the tour has us going to Deer Valley, China, Japan, (10 day break), Sweden, France, then Vermont for National Championships. 10 more events in 7 venues before April.
One thing to get off my chest before I get into the past competitions. I am leaning towards not doing any interviews BEFORE the competition. I had an absolutely terrible interview the night before Lake Placid. If it airs on TV, and it sounds totally fabricated, it’s because it is! I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I was becoming frustrated and wasn’t thinking straight. The first thing they wanted me to do was whore out for the event sponsors. None of my answers were “good enough”. I was told do to multiple takes over the same answer, sometimes told what to say.
In a usual World Cup, all I have to do is arrive, train, and compete. If I get a podium, then I’ll get a chance to do an interview about my skiing and the competition. When we do a World Cup in the US, it is different with media wanting to do these interviews. I don’t want to treat it any differently than any other World Cup. If I do my job, and end up on the podium, then I’ll do my interview. With that said, I am supposed to do an “athlete profile” in a week or so. Those are okay, because they just follow you around for a few hours and watch what you do. It will most likely be in the gym, I am not going to stray from my usual routine.
Back to skiing, I spent more time on the road in January than normal. I took off for Quebec on December 29, my team arrived on January 11th. Most of it was to spend New Year’s with Audrey, but we departed to Val St-Come to train for the next World Cup. The plan was to ski January 4-9. What I didn’t know was that they were going to double charge me to train on their mountain. A $45 ticket with a $55 training fee on top of that. I didn’t want to pay $100 to train for 2-3 hours per day. So I ended up just using the gym from the 4th-7th. The problem with the gym is that it’s at the bottom of the course, and there are big windows facing the course. During my workouts, I would see the Canadians training the course. I felt like the trouble maker kid in elementary school that was in timeout and had to look out the window to watch all the other kids playing in recess. Those four days were not so fun for me, but I did get to train the 8th and 9th. My jumps came back quickly and I felt ready for the Mont Gabriel World Cup.
Gabriel was another good result for me. I finished in 4th place, but I was frustrated. My focus was impaired and affected my ability to finish my job. I was thinking about how cool it would be if two male Americans were on the podium (which WILL happen at some point this year). It’s been over a year since that happened. My teammate Jeremy Cota was guaranteed a podium because he was in the championship round for 1st and 2nd. All I had to do was beat a Russian to grab 3rd place and join Cota on the podium. I didn’t even make it 5 seconds without making a critical mistake. I almost crashed my back-full on the top air. I was even more frustrated when I watched the video. The Russian only threw a 360 (a much easier jump). I blew a shot at my 3rd podium in a row.
We’re now completed with one-third of the season. So far, most of it has felt great, but my last result was as bad as the Nintendo Gamecube. Just when I felt like I was hitting my groove with consistency, I made another big mistake in my qualifications run in Lake Placid. Training had gone so well, and I had to blow it in the only run that mattered. My goal was to make the cut for finals in every event and not finish outside the top 10. After the run, I was so frustrated and the feelings I had last year when I had a bad event came back. It didn’t matter that I had 3 good results prior to this, it hurt just as bad. In the 90 minutes between my awful run to going back outside to spectate the finals, I thought about the big picture of this sport. There is no room for error, ever. I played in an adult baseball league this fall, just for fun. I hadn’t played baseball since my high school days, and it was a nice change of pace. Hitting safely in 3/10 at bats is considered successful. In mogul skiing, one mistake in a run can mean the difference between a top 5 and 30th place.
I mentioned that there will be multiple male Americans on the podium soon, we’ve had three close calls already. In those events, we’ve gone 3rd/4th, 2nd/4th, and 2nd/4th. We’re so close! Also, we have a few skiers on the male side that haven’t had the results they are capable of because of small mistakes mentioned above. I have faith that they will be where they deserve to be. It’s a long season and we will have the best year that American men have had in a long time.
All of us invest so much into this sport, especially for how little it is recognized and it only seems to matter to the world once every 4 years. Many of my teammates are living financially tight, me included. We’re all capable of winning one of these World Cup events. It’s crazy to think you have to be perfect on any given day to do so, and one quick lapse in focus can take away your chance to win. We all travel to the venue 2 to 3 days prior to the event, do about 5 hours of total official training, and then take a 22 second competition run. One shot to get it all right. Otherwise, you go home disappointed. It’s common to spend about $3,000 on each of these trips, just to have twenty-something seconds to prove why you’re the best in the world.
After I got back to my room from the Lake Placid event, we got news that Sarah Burke had passed away from her accident. She had invested so much of her life into the sport of skiing and become an icon for Women’s skiing, even Women’s athletics. It was easy to see how much this shook the skiing world with all the support from the entire community. Condolences to her husband, family, friends, and many, many fans.
It’s tough to hear about these accidents. Especially as a fellow athlete knowing what these other great athletes go through to get to the level they are at. Jake Hickman, a young mogul skier from the Tahoe area, had a great week at US Selections. Selections are one of the most important events in the season if you are not already on World Cup. It gives an opportunity to the best 60+ skiers that are not already on World Cup, to earn starts on World Cup and prove their case to be one of the best in the world. Jake just missed getting these starts. The next day, he fractured his T8 and T9 vertebrae. He was on top of the world one day, and was almost paralyzed the next. I am glad to say that he has been getting after it in rehab, and is now home after a month hospital stays and rehab. Sad seeing and hearing about events like this.
I hate to end this blog entry on a sad note. No matter how much this sport can bring me down, I will never take it for granted. I never want to be questioned over how much heart, passion, and focus that I ski with. ‘Til next time…