First - I didn't get an update up from the first World Cup after New Year's in Schonach, Germany. For a report from my teammate Ben Berend, who was with us for his first World Cup races, go here: http://skijumpingusa.com/index_htm_files/20150108-Blog.pdf
On Saturday I scored my first World Cup points with a 21st place finish. My 93m jump in competition turned to better than many others in rainy and windy conditions. I found myself starting the race in 27th - far ahead of where I've started previous World Cup races. I knew I had an awesome chance to grab my first points, but I also had a lot of fast skiers starting right behind me - another thing I'm not as used to.
We raced five laps on one of the narrowest courses I've skied on at this level - and by far the muddiest snow I've raced on anywhere. Thousands of fans came out of the small neighboring villages to line the race course and pack the stadium. It was near impossible to hear splits or placing from my coaches. On the last lap I heard Bill yell 20 and 21st to Bryan and I. I was relieved to know that we were safely into the points, and I tried to make a charge to get away from some of the guys tailing us. In the last 500m, this might have cost me, and I didn't quite have the energy to hold onto a top-20. But either way 10 World Cup points is a great start to get onto the World Ranking List.
Bill made a great clip of the race on Saturday. If you haven't seen it, take the 45 seconds to watch it here and get a good feel for the atmosphere.
Or you can watch the entire race on youtube here.
The kids go crazy for all the skiers and love autographs as much as any fan. I was happy to sign some - especially when I was in a good mood after jumping!
On Sunday we were planning on having a two-man team sprint. Unfortunately, the hill crew wasn't able to overcome the warm temps from the day before and the fresh snow that morning. Apparently there was a puddle in the curve of the landing, and the jury decided to cancel the jumping. This wasn't an all bad thing for our team - it meant we'd all get to race off Friday's Provisional jump.
Bryan and Taylor were both in striking distance after the PCR - in 25th and 37th respectively. Bill and I were further back, but in a position to ski into points if we had strong races.
We raced on what was supposed to be the team sprint course - 7 x 1.5km loops, which was all the snow they had left, besides the couple inches that fell that morning. On the second lap, one of the French skiers crashed right in front of me and took out Armin Bauer of Italy. I was lucky to avoid it and get back on Bill's tail. Then on the third lap, in the same spot - a seemingly simple straight downhill, Bill's skis lept away from him and he went down right in front of me. Again, I was lucky to stay out of it, but now I was out a skiing partner and Bill was left in the dust.
Bill was eventually able to catch back to me and had a stronger finish, but we were both just out of the points group. He finished in 32nd and I was 34th, just 11 seconds out of points. I was a little bummed not to get back into the points, but happy to show that on an average jump and a so-so race I could still be darn close.
Unbeknownst to Bill and I, Taylor and Bryan were ripping up the course ahead of us. Taylor skied the fastest time of the day by a good margin and charged up to a 5th place finish - one of his best finishes since he was on the podium in Seefeld 20133. Bryan skied great as well and finished in 8th - his third top 10 of the year. It was awesome to have two of our guys in the top-ten, and a great way to cap off the weekend.
After racing on Sunday, we packed up and hit the road for Austria. This weekend is the big Seefeld Triple - three days of competition that each count towards the next. Friday starts with the 1 jump and 5km, Saturday is a traditional 10km, but based on Friday's results and another jump comp, and then on Sunday the top 30 will compete in a 2 jump, 15km. On the final day double World Cup points are awarded, so if we can all be in good position by the end, it'll be a great chance for the team.
On a final, more somber note, I want to touch briefly on the tragedies that US skiers faced last week. On Monday, January 5, two US Ski Team alpine racers, Ronnie Berlack, age 20 and Bryce Astle, 19 died in an avalanche while free-skiing near Solden, Austria. That same day, Nicholas Fairall crashed as he landed an otherwise stable jump in Bischofschofen, AU during the Four Hills Tournee. Nick suffered a severe spine injury and is not going to compete this winter.
I don’t usually think of what I do as exceptionally dangerous, and these events haven’t necessarily changed that. Of course, backcountry skiing is another issue, but there are inherent risks in everything we do. I always say that I’m almost as likely to be in an accident driving down to the airport before a trip as I am to get injured during training or competition. This is to say that when tragedies happen, it shouldn’t be a time of fear, but a time to appreciate what we have. I’ve always been blessed with extremely good health and circumstances, and sometimes forgot that my “bad days” are still pretty good compared to the lives of many.
I didn’t know Bryce, but I knew Ronnie from training in the gym. He was the kind of kid that would always start up a conversation when others might put their headphones in and keep doing their thing. It’s terrible to see these young lives cut short and definitely a wake up call for me. My thoughts are with their teammates and families – who could never anticipated or prepared for this.
Nick Fairall is a continually positive and upbeat guy, and will surely keep his awesome attitude up as he fights his way back to recovery. Send your thoughts to him, and, please consider contributing to his medical expenses. You can support Nick here.
As always, thanks for reading. Stay posted for more news.
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