To say that the 2015 Telemark Nationals did not go as planned would be an understatement. While I'm still happy I managed to salvage a couple podiums and 3rd overall...I did not ski my best all week, which is very disappointing.
Before I get into all of that, the crew at Sunlight, Ken Gay, and the rest of the organizers did a fantastic job hosting the races. They built us a huge jump, the race hill had excellent terrain, the crew did a great job keeping the course in good shape despite temperatures ranging into the 70's, and best of all they built a killer 360. It skied awesome in both directions, which is very rare. For a little mountain pretty far off the beaten path, it was a terrific venue to hold Nationals, and I can't wait to come back in the future and redeem myself!
I didn't exactly get off to the best start either, during the second run of the Sprint Classic on Friday, I had a huge wreck of the jump (I could talk about this for hours, if you are curious feel free to ask). which resulted in one broken ski, one broken pole, one very colorful and swollen thumb, and more aches and pains then I can count. I am very thankful to only walk away from a crash like that with the few injuries I have. Anytime there are enough forces involved to de-camber a ski, I have to count my blessings that none of my bones are de-cambered.
I guess you could say that for the crash on Friday really put me off my game for Saturday and Sunday. I'm not sure that's true, but I definitely didn't feel like myself out there. A few bumps and bruises are also no excuse mental errors.
On the bright side, there is no motivator like the taste of defeat. I will be back next year, I will be bigger, I will be faster, I will be stronger, and I will not make the same mistakes twice.
This week I am in Bozeman, Montana visiting the Exercise Physiology Graduate program (fingers crossed I get in), as well as getting in a little soul shredding at Big Sky and Bridger Bowl for spring break. A week off is definitely in order to get my head screwed on straight and lay out my training plan for the offseason. Then its time to get back to work!
The last week was one of the most exhilarating weeks of ski racing of my life, by a long shot. While I was not able to secure a medal, to ski as good or better than I ever have before, and certainly far better than I had been this year, or home turf (well mostly), is an incredible feeling. I could not be more proud of the effort.
Before I get to the recap, I wanted to thank the Organizing Committee, as well as the FIS officials (looking at you Urban) who made this thing happen. I was incredibly impressed with how the races ran, the volunteer gate judges, the timing and scoring, the meals and accommodations, everything was amazing. It is very rare that almost all the athletes say they had no complaints about the races, something that happened last week. I could not have been more proud to race on home turf!
Now on to the juicy part, to recap:
11th in the Sprint Classic - I threw down two runs that were for the most part without MAJOR mistakes and had moments of absolute brilliance. I have never been so nervous before a ski race before in my life. Although after three gates I was absolutely in the zone, all nerves gone. Getting this one out of the way was definitely a catalyst for the rest of the week.
5th in the Team Event - This one could have gone better for Team USA for sure, a little bad luck with weather, and a tough draw made it difficult for us to advance out of the first round, but thats ski racing! It was good to get a little of the "head-to-head" nerves out of the way for the true parallel.
5th in the Parallel Sprint - This event was far and away the most important one for me coming into the World Champs. If Telemark is going to become an Olympic sport, this event is going to play a HUGE part. So my number 1 goal coming in was to qualify for the Parallel. With that out of the was I felt like I could let it rip and make some moves. Again, a little luck and a timely exit of the loom by Jonas Schmid of Germany brought me into the second round, further than I had ever advanced before. I was unable to out-skate my good friend Antoine Bouvier of France in the second round, but I am incredibly proud the effort I put in. Also, upon review of the video, it became apparent to me that I can beat just about anybody into the wrap, I was right with or ahead of Jonas, undoubtably one of the fastest skiers on the planet, and beat Antoine, a World Cup Champion, and Bronze Medalist at these Championships, to the wrap twice! That being said my number one training goal this off season is going to be skating....that is without a doubt where I lost this race.
14th in the Classic - By the time Friday and the Classic rolled around, I was thoroughly spent...no excuse however, and I tackled 76 turning gates and two skates over 436 vertical meters of descent with as much vigor as I could. While the place seems ok, finishing almost 18 seconds behind the winner, even in a classic is a bit disappointing. Improving my anaerobic fitness will be another goal for this summer. I will also say that this course was impossibly far away from my wheelhouse. I am at my best when the hill requires tactical accuracy, high edge angles, and aggressive skiing, I like when the course punches you right in the face. This classic was so straight it could almost have been a super-g. I really struggled to find the rhythm of the course, and I definitely over-skied it. That is no excuse however, and I expect to be much closer nest year!
Also a HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to all the people and sponsors who made this possible, especially Cannon Mountain, TelemarkDown, Crispi, Atomic Skis, all of the people who made donations to my season (YOU GUYS ROCK), and last but most CERTAINLY not least, my amazing parents, without whom I would have spent last week at school wishing I could have been in Colorado.
Now that I am back at school...one week until I leave for nationals! Time to defend my title!!
All photos by myself, Ayano Hata, and Sean Durrum