It's a bit strange to be sitting here and writing a recap for World Juniors. For one thing, that means the season is nearly over, and for another, it's fairly difficult to sum up the whole week in one entry. In short, it was an awesome week. A few things didn't go as planned, but the experiences where awesome and I had one day in particular to be very proud of.
The week kicked off with a bang Monday night at an impressive opening ceremonies. All the teams were bused down to the hockey rink from last year's University Games. After a cool presentation of all the countries flags and a couple speeches, they brought in the Atatürk University Dance team for an epic performance. The "dance" lasted over an hour and included (from what I interpreted) a wide variety of Turkish dances, a planned marriage, a shocking unveiling of women in soldier uniforms, and some incredible drumming at the end. The organizers and city of Erzurum made it quite clear that they were incredibly proud to be hosting these championships and would do all they could to ensure the athletes had a great time.
Before our first competition we had a couple days of official jump training and some time to ski the course, although our whole team had already been here and knew what to expect. In the evenings, we had down time to hang out with the rest of the US team - jumpers and XC skiers, as well as some of the foreign athletes that I've gotten to know.
Our first event was the individual comp with a 10km race. I wasn't completely satisfied with my jump, which put my in 36th place, the points spread was pretty close, so I really wasn't that far out. I moved up steadily throughout the race, constantly fighting through spastic packs of skiers.
I ended up going over the last big climb in 10th, but really had nothing left in my tank and finished the race in 12th. No matter what, I was really happy with my race and am quite satisfied with a 12th at my first ever World Championship event. Mattia Runggaldier, an Italian, took home the gold, after skiing a really impressive race and putting down the fast time. I was the third fastest skier of the day, which I was also pretty happy about.
We've known all winter that we had a real chance at getting on the podium in the team event if we were all on our game. Unfortunately, we weren't quite there. We put down solid jumps - Erik especially, and started the 4 x 5km race in 7th, just 32 seconds out of the podium. Michael "scrambled," or lead off, and skied a hellova leg to put us in 3rd, right ahead of Finland. We hung on for a while, but there's a lot of fast skiers out there and we were a little handicapped with Erik being sick and at this point I was pretty congested as well. I anchored, but the combination of skiing alone and being sick didn't work out - not to make excuses - but I didn't ski a great race and started and finished in 8th.
Saturday, the last day of competition wasn't really my day. I was congested and coughing a lot, so I didn't have the usual confidence in my racing. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on my jumping and tried way too hard to go far. I should know this by now, but trying harder just doesn't work in ski jumping. So I jumped myself out of the race, especially because it was a 5km. I started in 42nd, over 2 minutes out of the lead. I was a little discouraged and frustrated at the start, but I skied the hardest race I could. I ended up 34th, and had the 18th race time. One of the pluses of the race was I had a strong finish and won a photo finish. I always like to practice my lunges to the line and that may have been the first time I was actually in a photo finish.
On Thursday, we went and watched girls jumping competition. Sarah Hendrickson threw down two deep jumps to win a silver medal. She's been lighting up the World Cup this year and really deserved the medal! It was the second silver for the US, we soon found out, as Noah Hoffman had just finished 2nd in the U23 15km classic race for cross country.
Friday and Saturday we also got to watch the men's skate portion of the "skiatholon" event before our races started. The junior's raced a 20km (half classic, half skate) and the U23's a brutal 8 lap 30km. I was absolutely blown away at the level of skiing in these races. The winning time for the 20km was under 50 minutes and 30 seconds. My 10km time, to give some perspective, was 25:58, and that wasn't after classic skiing and switching poles and skis mid-race!
On Sunday, I spent some time resting my lungs and body, and then had an awesome day in the city getting a bit of a feel for the Turkish culture with my parents. I'll put more up on that tomorrow, but that's it for now!
Where am I?