Hey it’s been a bit since I’ve been on, so I have some recapping to do.
From Japan, we traveled back to central Europe and were right back to competing in Predazzo, Italy. Unfortunately, after the racing in Sapporo, Bryan, Taylor and I all came down with a nasty sinus and respiratory virus, and were in pretty rough shape by the time we made it to Predazzo. We rested up as best we could, fighting the strong urge to go for long skis in the beautiful Val de Fiemme valley.
We thought we were feeling okay by the time the weekend rolled around. Bryan and I jumped into decent positions both of the individual events. On the first day, I was in position to score some solid points, but faded on the third lap and hung on to a 28th place finish. On Sunday, the second individual, I was in a position again to at least grab a few points, but struggled in the last third of the race and ended up dropping back to 36th (the same place I started in). It was tough and disappointing to struggle like that on the race-course – definitely not a feeling I’m used. Even Taylor, who only raced on Sunday, wasn’t able to ski nearly as strong as he usually does. Clearly, we weren’t at our best, but it was challenging to wrap our brains around not being able to race fast. I came away with an appreciation for being a strong skier - because it's way more fun to pass people than see them ski away from you. One bright spot from the weekend was having Colin Delaney and Michael Ward along, who have been on the Continental Cup circuit and gained some experience on the Word Cup.
After Predazzo, Bryan went home (he’s gotta see the wife once in a while) and Taylor, Colin, Michael and I headed to Planica, Slovenia. Taylor and I were planning on having a hard week of training as we ramped into peaking for World Champs. However, we could tell that we needed to recover and get healthy before trying to jump right back into intensity. Dave reworked our plans and we were able to have a productive week and get back into form by the end of it.
Planica was winter wonderland compared to the last time I was there in December. We skied out our door on a trail system that runs up and down the valley and down over the Italian border. We were hoping to be jumping right up the road in Planica, but the hill crew didn’t get the snow cleared off on the days we were planning on jumping. Fortunately, the hill nearby in Kranj was open, which worked great, because our wax-tech Andrej lives in Kranj and was coaching us that week. It was great to get some different ideas from Andrej and have the opportunity for open training, which is a rarity in the competition season.
We competed in Slovenian Nationals in Kranj against their Nordic Combiners and all of their special jumpers who weren’t competing on World Cup or Continental Cup that weekend. Had we done the NC race as well, Taylor would have had a good shot at becoming Slovenian National Champion, but we weren’t planning on racing at all last week. We all benefitted from having a low stress jump competition. Fun fact: I’ve now competed in Italian, Canadian, Swiss and Slovenian National Championships.
A week ago we drove up to Ramsau, Austria, where we met the World Junior crew. Ramsau, like Planica, was a different world then when I was here before Christmas. We had to push our van a good portion of the snowy road in a blizzard up the final bit to our hotel, but none of us were complaining about too much snow. After the initial snowstorm the skies cleared and we had perfect calm, sunny days for the rest of the week in Ramsau. Prior to the comps, we had a couple great sessions training as a big team. Although we had 7 athletes and could only ski 4 per day, it worked out that everyone was able to get a start. Saturday was the only comp day for Taylor and I – as planned, just to get the feel of competing back in without being too tired before Falun.
Overall, the Continental Cup in Ramsau was successful. Taylor demonstrated that he's ready to rock and took the win on Saturday. I came in 20th, which was a solid result in that deep of a field, but definitely not my best day. On Sunday, Ben Berend jumped well and hung on for a point in the race (finishing 30th). Michael and Colin both raced fast, but were too far back in the jumping to get into the points. My brother, Ben, also had a pretty good day, and looked good racing, especially considering most of the guys in the race were at least a few years older than him.
Here's a few pictures from Sunday's race.
And more pictures from the week.
Now I'm in Falun, and the World Championships are getting underway. It should be an awesome couple weeks! I'm really excited to compete in my first World Championships.
Our events are on the 20, 22, 26 and 28th. Live coverage of the events will be streamed on
www.USSkiteam.com and www.Universalsports.com.
See here for a full schedule and stay tuned!
We had two individual competitions in Sapporo, plus the usual pre-comp day of official training, a provisional jump (PCR) and cross country training. Each day we loaded onto coach buses early in the morning and wound our way out of the city up to the jump venue. After jumping, we had about an hour bus ride to the cross country venue – past all sorts of city shops, restaurants, a few casinos and finally out into the countryside. Everyday, dump trucks were out in full force hauling snow out of the city. This was a nice contrast to the truckloads of snow that we’ve so far this year – which have been bringing snow in to make a course on green grass fields. The ski trails in Sapporo seemed to be a bit higher in elevation than the city, and there was even more snow out here. Incidentally, this was no more than 150m above sea-level.
If you haven’t watched the first video from my Part 1 blog, check it out for a look at our fun on the buses. Fast Big Dog, aka Jon Schaefer, made both of the videos. He’s a good friend and supporter of ours who usually tries to come to at least one of our World Cup weekend. When Taylor told him that we decided to go to Sapporo, he said that he’d always wanted to race in the Sapporo Loppet – which is this weekend – so the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. We only brought our wax-techs as staff and worked with the Swiss jump coach, so FBD was our "coach" and – perhaps more importantly – motivational figure for the week.
In that role – he might just have to come along more often. I didn’t have quite the weekend I was hoping for, but the Fletchers brothers lit it up. Bryan had his best jump result of the year so far on Friday, and was top-ten both days (9th and 8th).
The real success came on Saturday though, when Taylor tore through the field from 28th place and almost 2 minutes back, then proceeded to attack the lead group on the last lap and skied onto the podium. I could hardly believe it when I finished the race and saw his name in 3rd on the leader board. Then again, if there’s anyone who can make up that much time, it’s Taylor. He was over 20 seconds faster than Bryan, who was the next fastest skier.
This was Taylor’s 2nd individual World Cup podium, ending a dry spell for our team since their World Championship team bronze in 2013. It definitely was deserved and made the long trip to Japan even more worthwhile.
I was able to come away with a few more points. I finished in 28th the first day after solid jumping in tough conditions and a good, but not great race. On Saturday I didn’t fly away from the hill in strong headwind after a pretty good takeoff, and left myself too far behind the majority of the field to ski into points. I did however, set a PR cross-country race, with the 9th time rank. After a disappointing jump, it can be tough to refocus, but having the chance for a redemption race is one of the great things about Nordic Combined. Clearly, we’re doing something right in the cross-country side, and the jumping aspect is coming along steadily.
Although our weekend wrapped up on Saturday, we didn’t fly out until Monday morning. I was happy to get the chance to explore the city before we left. We spent most of Sunday in the city, wandering through massive shopping malls with an electronic district that could have been Amazon.com’s warehouse, and perused shops and markets on the walking-street mall.
The trip back to Munich was of course, a long haul. We were all feeling a little under-the-weather, which isn't surprising considering all the travel and racing, so we did our best to sleep through the 13 hours from Tokyo to Paris. If it was a competition, Taylor won that as usual. Now we're in Predazzo, Italy for another busy World Cup weekend. Italian food is a bit of shock to the system after Japanese but I think we'll manage just fine.
Here's a few more pictures from the week in Japan. Check back for next week's update.
As expected, we had quite the adventure simply getting to Sapporo. We flew from Munich early Monday morning to Paris, then on to Tokyo/Narita. Bryan started the trip started off well by charming the nice Air France attendant into waiving all our bag fees. At the beginning, she said each bag over our allowances would be 200 euros and every kilo over 23kg was an extra 12 euros. Between Bryan, Taylor, our two wax techs, Tim Hug, the Swiss coach and serviceman, we had 19 bags – including one ski bag that was an astonishing 44kg. All in all – we were saved form paying roughly 2000 euros.
When we arrived in Tokyo/Narita we had to recheck onto our flight to Sapporo on Jetstar air. First we were told that all bags longer than 1.9 meters (all our ski bags) wouldn’t fit on board and we would have to find a cargo plane to take them. As they worked on figuring this mess out Jetstar and Japan Air decided to cancel all flights to Sapporo due to heavy snow. Once again we loaded our bags onto carts and headed for an airport hotel.
It was a drag to extend the trip another day and essentially lose a third day of training, but we tried to make the best of it. After crashing for a quick nap (or three hours if you’re pro sleeper Taylor) we took the train into the Narita city center. We could have taken an express train into Tokyo but no one was too interested in the hour-plus train ride each way and the likelihood of getting lost in Tokyo.
Narita turned out to have a real cool walking street with local shops and restaurants. We found an awesome sushi spot and treated ourselves to a nice dinner – at half the cost of most sushi restaurants in the US.
Many of the other teams arrived into Narita on Wednesday and were on our same flight to Sapporo. This time, the race organizers in Sapporo arranged to have our skis on a cargo flight and brought them directly to the hotel early the next morning. We spent most of the day traveling to Sapporo, but were able to get in a light strength session in the morning and an evening jog after we arrived at the hotel.
We stayed in the heart of the sprawling city of 2 million at the Prince Hotel. It was quite the place. 28 stories, lightning fast elevators, and a very friendly staff. All the other teams were there as well, so they had a buffet for us with a full spread of Japanese food and a few "western options." Fortunately I like seafood and will try just about anything.
The weekend of competitions went by quick, and now we're already on our way back to Europe. I'll have more on the competitions later, but for now I'll leave you with a few pictures and two must watch videos from "coach for the week" Fast Big Dog. More to come later.
I competed in the Seefeld Triple last weekend. FIS brought out this new format for the first time last year in Summer Grand Prix, and the two years of the event in Seefeld have been a big success. We do a lot of the same events over and over, so it's cool to do something different, without totally changing around the way our sport works.
The Triple kicked off Friday with one jump and a 5km "prologue." All athletes were able to jump and race, and then the top-50 from the finish of the 5km moved onto Saturday. I didn't have as good of a competition jump as my provisional and training the day before, and I found myself starting in 56th. The rest of the team, Bill, Taylor and Bill were starting safely in the top-50, but no one jumped to a position that they were particularly satisfied with. I managed to ski up to finish right at 50th place - not exactly what I hoped for - but at least I was in for the next day.
The interesting thing about the Triple is that each day counts towards the next. This meant that for the jumping on Saturday I was starting first, with 28.5 points (or 115 seconds) subtracted from my jump score. Every athlete had some points taken away based on the last day except for the winner of the 5km, Eric Frenzel. These points plus our jump points determined the start order of the 10km race.
I knew I would need a really good jump to put myself back in a fighting position. Unfortunately, trying to make something extra happen on the jump hill usually back fires, and I wasn't able to move up much for the start of the 10km. I started in 48th, but at least I had a good group to start with in a "wave" start and was able to move up to 38th place.
Only the top-30 moved on to Sunday - so I was out, along with Taylor, who finished just outside of the top 30. Bryan and Bill, however, had great races, and were 11th and 21st going into the final day.
Sunday was a two-jump, 15km event - back to the old school format from a while back. While we cheered them on, Bryan and Bill both jumped pretty well and put themselves in 14th and 17th to start the race. Usually, this would be within striking distance of the podium or at least top-5, but after 2.5 days of competition, the race was fairly spread out. Haavard Klemetson (Norway) blew the field apart with two massive jumps and had a 1:30 lead over second place.
As much as I wanted to be in the competition, it was still a pretty exciting race to watch. Bryan and Bill did their best to make up time gaps and Klemetson was slowly reeled in at the front of the race. Eric Frenzel caught Haavard on the 5th lap and skied away for a clear win. It wasn't exactly a surprise win - Frenzel has been the most dominant athlete on the NC circuit for the past couple years. He won the Triple last year as well. He's one of the strongest jumpers, and when he needs to be, he can be one of the fastest guys on the track - so I have to say, the win went to the best guy, who's a complete picture. (Klemetson, on the other hand, often leads the jumping, but usually only hangs on for the podium when he's got a pretty good lead starting the race).
I made a quick video of the day with shots I took of Bryan and Bill. Check it out if you haven't already.
Next year the Triple will probably be bigger than ever, as we won't have a championship event in 2016. Expect to see more than two US athletes in the final day! I definitely went in with the goal of making their and was a bit disappointed with my results. But it was still a fun event, a great experience, and surely a better effort than I would have put forward a year ago. Plus, Seefeld is a gorgeous place, and we always stay at an awesome hotel, Zum Gourmet. Here's a few pictures for you.
Yes, Taylor, Bill and Bryan all bought traditional lederhosen. They look good, but I'll save that purchase for another trip...
Finally, after Seefeld we got right back on the road (and plane) again. I'm writing now from Sapporo, Japan - a new place for me! It was quite the journey getting over here, but at least we're much more used to the jet-lag than the Europeans. We compete here tomorrow and Saturday. For once, lack of snow isn't the least bit of an issue. I saw 10 dump-trucks in a row today hauling snow out of the city. It should be great weekend, stay posted!
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.
I wrote this on the plane overseas again after a short week at home. After Ramsau, I was fortunate enough to fly into Minneapolis, spend the week with the family, and then get a flight out of MSP back over to Munich. Before I go on, a quick recap of Ramsau:
Ramsau, Austria is one of the highest elevation ski jumping venues in Europe. Set in the Alps below the Dachstein glacier, it's usually a winter wonderland surrounded by connecting alpine resorts and endless cross country ski trails. That was hardly the case this year. Their best snow so-far fell in mid October, since then, the area has had little snow and warm temperatures. On a few cold nights they were able to make enough snow to prepare the HS100 and a bare-bones 1.25km cross country loop.
The highlight from Ramsau was definitely the 4-man team event. I competed with Bill, Taylor and Bryan in the first event of this format that I’ve done since World Juniors in 2012. We battled tough conditions on the hill and jumped to 8th. In the relay (5km each) Bryan led us off strong and we moved up to finish in 5th. Considering that 3 out of the 4 of us didn’t qualify to compete in the individual event and Bill’s not yet in his top racing form, it was a solid team performance.
Here's some photos from the team event, all credit Sandra Volk.
On Sunday’s individual event, the weather forced the jury to cancel and use Friday’s provisional jump – for the second time so far this season. Usually, this would mean that everyone – not just the top-50 – would get to race. Unfortunately for us, the jury decided that 70 racers would be too many on the shortened racecourse. This was especially frustrating for Bryan, usually a strong jumper, who jumped to 51st. But there was nothing we could do about it but cheer on Bill and be ready for the next opportunity.
After Ramsau, it was great to have a week at home with the family. Highlights included home-cooked meals, a fondue dinner, ice-skating on Christmas, spending time at the cabin and game nights. No jumping yet in the Midwest, but otherwise I was able to keep up with my training. Over the weekend, I put some K’s on the beautiful Birkie trail.
On Saturday I skied with Brian Gregg – a 2014 Olympian and 2015 World Championships hopeful for cross-country skiing. We skied about 40km in 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow, which was plenty for us. Some of the other skiers out there were completing the annual informal “Double Birkie.” I’m not sure if anyone did the full 50 + km trail both ways, but most of the guys were aiming for over 80km that day. I’ll have to add the Double Birkie to my list – and hopefully do it on an easier day than this year’s!
Stay tuned! If you want more info on how to follow along, these links are for you:
Be sure to follow USA Nordic Combined on Facebook here or our new Twitter here for updates.
The FIS Nordic Combined website, for schedules and results:
To watch the jumping and races later on YouTube, follow this guy or search Nordic Combined World Cup and limit your search query to most recent results.
This week was an off week in the World Cup schedule, and since I wasn't going to compete in the Continental Cups in Park City, I stayed over and trained in Planica, Slovenia. The coaches and Taylor went back to help with and ski in the COC's, respectively, and Bryan went home to spend some time with his wife. So I was solo for the week.
There wasn't much for snow in Planica, which is the case for just about everywhere but Scandinavia at the moment. One upside of this weather is that I'm staying in run shaping and might not have to go through a couple weeks of getting my running legs back in the spring after a winter of skiing every day.
I started the week with a run up from the guesthouse to the Tromeja, (Slovenian for 3 borders). Like the four corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, only I was at the top of a mountain overlooking Italy, Slovenia and Austria. Just to be sure, I checked out the map from my GPS watch and really was on the right peak. As an added bonus, the snow from last week stuck up high, the sky was blue and the views were gorgeous.
Back in town, winter seemed a long way off.
Fortunately I found some decent skiing at the Pokluka ski trails and a small loop up the valley from Planica. Pokluka was about a 50 minute drive, mostly winding up mountain roads, but well worth it. They're preparing for this week's World Cup Biathlon at Pokluka, so they had a good race loop and were busy making snow when the temps were cold enough.
Here's a throwback picture from January 2010, when I first skied at Pokluka, with Cliff Field, left and Michael Ward, right, before I competed in my first Continental Cup. Time flies.
There was also skiing just up the road from the road from where I was staying, past the ski jumps. It was a bit of an adventure to get up there: about 1.5km of hiking on what should be a ski trail, then I put on skins (fit for XC skis) and skinned up the valley another 2km, and then the trail opened up into a nice meadow with a short groomed loop. One of the mornings I was up there the local ski club drove a team van up there for training - on the supposedly non-motorized road. I didn't mind the hike though, it just meant a few less laps that I had to do at the top.
I also spent two afternoons at the nearby Dali jump suit factory. For once, I let them do all the work. They re-measured me, built me a suit, and then made all the alterations on the spot so that it would fit perfect. In the past, I've had to make these alterations myself, which is neither fun nor the best way to have a perfect suit. This time, I left it to the professionals.
Since I was alone and had extra time to kill, I played the part of a tourist more than I usually would. One afternoon, I drove down the road to Tarviso, Italy for some shopping, wandering, browsing and a real Cappuccino. On the way back, I stopped at Laghi Fusine and took in the beautiful alpine lake.
I stayed at Gostišče Uh, a small guesthouse that happens to be owned by the biggest NFL fan I've ever met in Europe. In fact, Žan, whose team is the Eagles, is one of the most diehard football fans I've met anywhere.
I've stayed at the "Uh" before, and he hosted the junior team for around a month in total over the span of last year, so I felt right at home. Žan and I watched the World Cup ski jumping on his big screen projector. And, of course, when Sunday night rolled around, the projector was firing for game-day with his full NFL Network package. The Packers were the "early game" - starting at 7pm our time, so I watched most of that game, although it was a pretty bad game for Packer fans. After I went to bed, Žan still had one game to sit through, and then the real game could start - Philadelphia vs. Dallas.
They took good care of me with traditional food and all the kindness of a family that's in the business of hospitality. Slovenian cuisine tends to lean heavily on meat, potatoes and fried food in general, but some of their specialties were exceptional. Slovenian mushroom soup, in particular, is the best mushroom soup I've had anywhere, and they have some really good dumpling dishes. For my last lunch before leaving, they served me Krapi, a large dumping filled with polenta, buckwheat flour and ricotta cheese and topped with a slightly sweet and savory butter sauce. Suffice it to say, I didn't arrive in Austria hungry.
I drove the two hours to Ramsau, Austria on Monday, where we'll be competing this weekend. There's not really any more snow here - just a short man-made cross country loop. But the jump is open, and I took a few jumps with the Slovenian NoCo team Tuesday morning. The rest of my team arrived Tuesday night, and now we're back on a normal schedule. I'm off to take some more jumps this morning! Think snow!
This last week in Lillehammer was just as up and down as the hilly Birkebeiner race course. I wrapped up the weekend with some good steps in the competition and a personal best World Cup finish of 35th on Sunday.
We arrived to Lillehammer Monday night, with a few days to relax, train and get ready for the weekend. We had two jump sessions on the hill during the week, which is as much as you can ever hope for between competitions. Honestly, I only had a few jumps that were up to the level that I was shooting for, so I had some work to do going into the competition.
Lillehammer only has a few inches of natural snow on the ground, so rather than skiing loops around the race course, we drove up to ski at Sjusjøen, a nearby nordic center, on Tuesday. Less than 20km of driving and suddenly we where in a winter wonderland. I roller skied at Sjusjøen 5 years ago when I first went to Lillehammer, but it is really spectacular in the winter. You could ski in the trees and fog for hours and hours if you wanted... or were lost. We stuck to a safe out-and-back to avoid spending the entire afternoon skiing.
We stayed at a massive Radisson with a large contingence of the cross-country teams. This is was last weekend that we'll be with XC until Falun, and I think I'll miss being in the same place as them. Leaving Norway, I'm also going to miss brown cheese sandwiches and having salmon at least everyday. They definitely took care of us well at that hotel. I'm sure it helped that the Norwegian cross-country team was staying there.
Friday was the usual official training and provisional/qualification, but not the usual schedule. Instead, we started the day with XC training in the morning, right before the women's and men's skate sprint races. It got pretty hectic testing on the one hill out of the stadium. I tried to capture it in the picture below, although the crowd had died down considerably before I snapped this picture. With speakers blasting music and a couple hundred skiers and techs around me, it was a pretty fun atmosphere - at least as much fun as I've ever had testing skis.
We had our official training jumps right after XC training. I put down a pretty good second jump, and was pumped going into the provisional round. But first we had some waiting to do: our provisional wasn't until that night, after the women's jumping. Unfortunately, I didn't quite have it in provisional, and along with Taylor and Brett, was out of the top-50, and out for Saturday's race. Taylor was agonizingly close in 54th and just a few points away from 50th.
On Saturday we cheered for Bryan, and our Swiss "teammate" Tim, who finished in 14th, one of his best results. Bryan jumped just two meters short of K-point, but was in 45th after the jumping - too far back to get into the race. He skied a strong race to finish in 34th.
Saturday race photos:
I spent most of Saturday focusing on clearing my head and preparing for Sunday's comp. Letting the past go isn't my forte, but it's an important skill to learn as an athlete. After watching the race, I went back up to Sjusjøen to ski pre-race intervals, and enjoy some bomber skiing. It was a clear afternoon, and the sun was setting below the plateau for almost the entirety of the ski.
On Sunday I had a pretty good provisional and qualified in 44th. Finally! I was in! Of course, in the following competition jump, I was hoping to put myself in a position to fight for points. I ended up jumping to 46th and just a little too far back time-wise.
In the race I worked with the young Frenchman Hugo Buffard. I skied with Hugo in Ruka; he's always a great skier to be with. We picked off all the guys we could, and I beat him to the line to finish in 35th. With the 11th fastest time, I had another PR cross-country race.
While I was fighting through the back, Bryan made his way up from 36th to a position to fight for the podium on the last lap. He ended up 8th, a great result with signs of more to come this season. He had a super fast race - 2nd fastest on the day. Our wax techs are doing an amazing job, and Bryan and I are psyched with how well our Madshus skis are running!
Here's one more sunset picture before I go (from a different day). Norway never fails to impress me.
I'm in the Oslo airport now, about to board a flight to Germany. From there, I'll drive to Planica, Slovenia. I'll spend the next week training there before going to compete in Ramsau. Hopefully the weather cooperates and I'll get to jump - if not, I'll still be in the gym and on my skinny skis.
As always, thanks for reading.
And we're off and running. The World Cup opener is in the books, and we're now getting ready for the next stop in Lillehammer, Norway.
We flew up to Kuusamo the weekend before last, ready for winter and the cold and dark of the arctic. We got our share of dark, but the temps were pretty mild and the sun even came out to say hello on Thanksgiving.
We competed in the small resort village of Ruka, near the city of Kuusamo. The cross-country skiers and ski jumpers also had World Cups there. Every hotel in Ruka was packed with skiers, coaches, techs and gear reps.
Our competition started on Friday with the Provisional jump. The provisional is used if the weather doesn't cooperate the next day during the actual competition, and only the top 50 from provisional qualify to compete in the jumping the next day. Bryan jumped to 32nd in the provisional and was the only one of us in the top-50. So Brett, Taylor and I were out, unless the weather was bad and they had to use the Provisional. We weren't too optimistic, but then again, Kuusamo is a notoriously windy jump.
On Saturday morning, the wind gods were on our side. After canceling trial round and getting a few of the first jumpers down safely, the wind kept getting stronger and the jury had to cancel. It was good news for all of us! (Except for Bryan, who would have liked to try to jump to a better position).
Although Taylor, Brett and I weren't in a position to ski into points, we were all stoked to race. This bit of luck definitely made my weekend.
Bryan led the way from our crew, skiing up from 32nd to finish a solid 17th. Taylor skied the 2nd fastest time on the day and finished in 36th. I moved up from 56th to 44th. I had the 17th fastest time was pretty psyched with my race, considering it was my first ever individual World Cup race against a full-field. (I raced in a an individual World Cup in Chaikovsky, RU, but many of the top guys weren't there).
On Sunday we competed in the 2-man team sprint. For this format they combine our jump scores and then we each ski 5 laps of 1.5km, tagging off to our partner between. Sprint and stop, sprint and stop. The Fletcher brothers finished 13th, Brett and I were 19th. Out of 23 teams, it wasn't our best performance, but I was happy with my racing again. Team sprints are basically the hardest race we do, and not usually my strongest suit. So I was happy to be on the better side of the middle of the pack with the 20th fastest time.
All in all, last weekend was a fun way to start the season. We'll get a couple training session on the jump hill here in Lillehammer, and we should all be ready to bring our A-game for the weekend.
After a quick strength session Monday morning we flew to Oslo and drove to Lillehammer.
There's a little more daylight here in Lillehammer than in Ruka, The sun stays out until the late hour of 3. When days are this short, an extra hour is a blessing.
Stay tuned for this weekend's events. Two individual comps on deck!
For a while it seemed that winter was never coming. No need to worry, however, the weather turned from the Indian summer just in time.
My 4 year streak of skiing in October came to a close, but we did get a few inches of snow the first couple days of November. It was enough for one long ski on the golf course. That snow didn't last long, and for a while the warmth and sunshine that followed had no end in sight.
Fortunately we got some of the arctic air last week and the Utah Olympic Park fired up the snow guns. It's amazing how quickly they can get the hills going when the weather's right. We weren't planning on jumping last week anyway. We took our first jumps on Monday morning, the first day the hill was open, and the same day that Dave wrote jumping? into the plan four weeks ago. Funny how well things work out.
Last week we focused on intensity: intervals every day, plus one time trial. We spent a lot of time roller skiing on the treadmill, which always makes for tough workouts, but I think it's really beneficial. Friday night mother nature gave us a few more inches of white gold, and we capped off the week with an interval session on snow.
If you've been reading my blog the past month you'll know about our Swiss "teammate" Tim Hug. He decided to forgo the typical cold and dark preseason training in Finland. As nice as the sunshine was, I'm sure Tim was getting as anxious for snow as we were.
Here's some photos from jumping today.
Now's it time for packing! We leave Saturday for Finland. I'll be overseas until Christmas week, which I'll spend at home, and then presumably I'll fly back to Europe from there. This means that I'm packing now for roughly two months. To make matters more complicated, when I return to Park City in January, I'll be living in a new house - so I've got to get most of my stuff moved out before I leave. Luckily packing is one skill that I've developed over the years.
Until next time. Thanks for reading.
Last trip, at a team meeting in Switzerland, our coach Dave Jarrett brought up the idea of culture. Usually, Dave is more likely to work through a spreadsheet than philosophize, so I’ll admit I was a little surprised. He shared a PowerPoint that presented culture as one of the most important factors in continuing success for any team or business. A consulting company created this presentation for USSA this spring, but the ideas can be applied just as easily at our sport alone.
In a room filled with a good portion of the sport of Nordic Combined in the US, DJ asked, “What’s our culture, as a sport and as a community?” “How do others see us, and how do we want to be viewed?” We were all given the chance to internalize this, and Billy contributed the bulk of the discussion. It goes without saying that Bill is the best one to answer this; more than anyone, he’s been the face of US Nordic Combined for years.
US NC started to change back in the early 90’s, when Dave was competing and the likes of Bill, Todd and Johnny were just coming onto the scene. Back then, a top-20 in a World Cup felt like a win. Now, that’s a great stepping-stone, but as an end-goal, that’s not good enough, our guys decided.
You all know how the story ended up – but the road there is often overlooked. To become the best, our guys redefined their approach, took some risks, trained smarter, and trained harder than anyone else. From one side of the story, the culmination of this, the big payout, was Vancouver. But’s its even harder to stay on top than to get there, as Dave put it and learned over the next couple seasons.
On the other hand, the essential result from this change in attitude 20 years ago wasn’t a collection of gold, silver and bronze medals. The real upshot is the community that these guys helped created (and you, reading this, are most likely a part of). It is a small group of people scattered across the entire US, not to mention our fans and staff as far away as Sapporo, Slovenia, Oslo and Cologne. This is a community that supports us, the athletes. And it’s a community that we share our stories of struggles, tears, triumphs and laughs with. It’s a community that we embrace wholeheartedly and without egos.
And I think we already proved that we have a culture of tenacity. Collectively, we’ve grown tighter than ever over the past few months. USA Nordic Combined is now tied in with USA Ski Jumping, finding new sponsors and working creatively with USSA. In a few short months, we’ve proven to be a tough, tight-knit group, and our supporters have been even stauncher in the face of turmoil. Furthermore, every year, in our fall Drive for 25, our community shows its great generosity.
Dave left us with the reality of the moment: here in this room, we have the faces of US Nordic Combined, current and future. How do we want to continue the culture of sharing, giving, growing, and excellence? It’s no small task, but if we do, 15, 20 years from now, some of us could be in a room much like that one, with new faces, new hopes, and the next generations of skiers.
We could do what we do only for ourselves; after all, we’re individual sport athletes. But, even better, we can take part in the sport for the group, the future, and the life of our community. That’s what I took away from this meeting.
This was an important revelation for me. We all share in the success of our group, and I’m proud to be able to ski for much more than just myself. By acting for of the greater community of US Nordic Combined, ski jumping, and skiing in general, I have a bigger foundation to represent and a much greater sense of purpose.
I'm back in the states now after a good couple weeks on the road. Swiss Nationals was a fun event with tough competition on the jump hill. Simon Amman - double Olympic Champion in Salt Lake and Vancouver, took the win in the jumping event and set the gate low.
Our friend Tim Hug took the win in the Nordic Combined event, ahead of Bryan Fletcher and Bill Demong. I came in a solid 4th after a challenging running race.
Tim is the lone Swiss NoCo athlete on the World Cup circuit. Over the past couple years, our team as adopted a partnership with the Swiss. We try to get together to train during summer camps, and come winter, he'll travel with us and work with our wax techs. His coach is from Oberstdorf, and extremely helpful for our team.
After competing in Einsiedeln we drove a couple hours through the mountains to sunny Oberstdorf, Germany. The first day there was beautiful, but the good weather didn't last for long.
Fortunately we were able to get a couple great sessions on Oberstdorf's large hill and one on the small hill. In October they run their refrigeration system on the iced-track inrun. The landing hill is still plastic, but it's a half step towards winter jumping and great to feel snow underfoot.
The best part about being in Oberstdorf this time of year is seeing the competition. The German, Austrian, Finnish and Norwegian Nordic Combined teams were all jumping at the same time with us. Since we're so removed in the states, its important to see where the level is at. Bryan's usually the strongest jumper on our team, and he was right in there with the best guys. I had some of my best jumps of the summer on Oberstdorf, and was pretty happy with how close I was to the other jumpers.
Tuesday morning brought rain, and by that night, it turned to snow. We were hoping to have an intrasquad competition on Wednesday, but in October snow can be a bit difficult. Too sticky for the landing hill and too slippery for roller skiing. Bryan, Brett and Taylor had already planned to leave on Wednesday. Although they were bummed to not get in one last comp, they picked an alright time to head home.
The snowstorm turned out to be more serious than we had imagined. Wednesday evening I went for a run and just a couple kilometers up into the mountains from our hotel the snow went from 3 or 4 inches to a solid foot deep. If we had cross country skis, we could have got some decent skiing in. Unfortunately we were relegated to the gym and wet running or roller skiing for two days, before we packed up and drove to Stams, near Innsbruck, Austria.
In Stams, we were just below the snowline, and back to Indian Summer. We got in a good day of jumping and a competition to finish off the camp. Michael took the win - proving he's ready as anyone for the winter to get started.
We spent Saturday night in Munich and then fly home the next day. All-in-all it was a great camp: quality training, good competitions, and a fun chance to show the younger athletes the ropes.
Now it's time to fight off a little jet lag and get ready for the season! Less than 4 week and I'll be back over in Kuusamo, Finland to start the World Cup season. Our team is taking four guys - Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, Brett Denney, and me. I'm psyched to be starting the season on World Cup for the first time.
If the weather right now gives any indication, northern Finland will be deep into winter by the time we get there! Check out the forecast: http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Ruka+Finland+1965:11
Last but not least we have just over two weeks left in the Drive for 25 and over $12,000 of matching grants still up for grabs! Please consider helping our cause now. Your donation will be doubled as we're working towards our $20,000 matching grant. And, as always, it's tax-deductible.
I can’t stress enough how important NNNF support has been to my career, and I wouldn't be where I am today without it. As I've progressed from a developing junior to a member of the B-team, the NNF has helped fund vital training and competition opportunities. This community-based support keeps our pipeline alive, and will continue to benefit the next generations of athletes. We really need your help to reach our $20,000 matching grant. If you donate now, you’re dollars will be doubled. We’re a community driven sport, which means that every individual’s support goes a long ways, and we couldn’t do it without you. The funding from this drive will go to support athletes for the next year at World Junior Championships, Continental Cups, and development camps in the US and Europe.
Click here to donate, and, better yet, spread the word!
No complaints on the trip so far. Our stopover in Lake Placid was great - I wish we could have been there longer.
The focus of the weekend was mostly on competition: Flaming Leaves and US Nationals. We did have time for one fundraiser, which was put on by Bill's mom, Helen Demong. It was the first joint fundraiser for USA Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined and Women's Jumping. We really are one big community, and people were generous in the support of the combined cause.
We all stayed at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). It's ideal for training and competition: plenty of healthy food from the "caf," sports med, a gym, sauna, all the works, right in house.
Nationals, on Sunday, was a highlight for me. I put down a solid jump to start the race in 3rd (tied with my brother) and behind the Fletcher brothers.
In the race, the Fletchers were a bit out of reach, but Bill Demong and Brett Denney were on hot the chase behind me. I really didn't know if I could hold them off until the end.
At the end of the day, I still have to keep my sights set on the level of the international field, but cracking podium was good step and great feeling. Big congrats to Bryan for his first Nationals Championship title, and Taylor, in 2nd, with his at least third podium at Nationals!
More pics from LP:
Now we're in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, with a total of 15 athletes. I've never spent any time in Switzerland before, but this town is so Swiss it's almost cliché (in a good way). The landscape is rolling in bright greens, the bells of grazing cows and sheep constantly ring, and jagged mountains crown the horizon. Einsiedeln is home to a massive but beautiful monastery. Everything about the town is quiet and simple, but the ski jumps are fully modern. While were here, we're focusing on quality jumping and competition.
This weekend is Swiss Nationals! It'll be an interesting competition. The NC portion is a running race, and in the special jumping competition we'll be competing against 4-time Olympic Champion Simon Ammann. Check him out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMhblZqNn0
One of the highlights of the stay so far was running intervals up the Grosser Mythen with our Swiss friends. For the younger athletes, trying to keep up with the likes of Taylor and Bill can be tough, but it's much easier when you're rewarded with surreal views of the Swiss Alps.
We're into the "prep-phase" now, where we move into more intensity and training is all about quality. The last few weeks have been busy, and tomorrow the real craziness begins.
I've spent nearly two full months in Park City in a row. OK -- maybe that's not too extraordinary, but I'm definitely ready to get back on the road. Tomorrow we leave for Lake Placid, NY, for US Nationals, and on Monday we'll fly over to Europe... with a huge crew!
In addition to the team, we'll have 9 junior athletes making the trip with us from LP to Europe, where we'll compete in Swiss Nationals as well as train in Oberstdorf, Germany. Stay tuned for an exciting trip, but for now, back to the last few weeks.
The biggest news for our team is that Bryan is now a married man! He sealed the deal with Nicole Thorsen at a beautiful event up at the Canyons Resort just a week and a half ago. Unfortunately, no time for a honeymoon for Bryan!
Last weekend Madshus had a fun event at Whitepine Touring to demonstrate their new empower technology. All their skis now have a RFID chip in them that tracks everything from production to the consumer. It'll make the job of buying skis in stores a lot easier - and should really help out with waxing, especially for classic. They even have an app to go with it. So much technology these days!
Sunday I helped Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton from the cross-country team lead Speed Camp. I don't have the expertise (or the speed) of these guys, who both have World Cup podiums in sprint races, but it was fun to help out and learn from them.
If you don't have World Cup athletes to lead you, the takeaway from Speed Camp is that going fast is all about balance, agility and ski skills. The younger athletes ran through fun drills and agility courses - on and off curbs, forwards and backwards, side to side.
Despite a few rainy days, it's been a beautiful fall here. The fall colors are pretty underrated here and this was the first September that I've been around to appreciate them. Lake Placid's competition is called Flaming Leaves - so it should be pretty nice there as well!
As usual, summer flew right by. The leaves started changing by Labor Day here in Park City. Time to get excited for the winter!
I've been training in Park City since we went to Aspen a month ago. For me - that's a pretty long stretch at home. Over the last couple weeks, I've made an effort to get out into mountains on the many trails nearby.
One of the cooler hikes I did was along the ridge line of Brighton ski area and back up to Guardsman's Pass at the top of Park City Ridgeline with Brett Denney and my brother Ben.
Last weekend, Ben and I rode the Wasatch Crest Trail. We rode from our house, up for almost an hour and a half, and then cruised the length of Park City Ridgeline and descended into Mill Creek Canyon in Salt Lake City. It's worth the ride up for the reward of a over 5000ft of descent in the second part of the ride.
This week, it was all about intensity.
Starting on Monday, we put in 7 interval sessions and 2 races. We spent most of the time on rollerskis, but did mix it up with two bounding interval sessions up the Canyons resort. Thank goodness for the gondola to bring us on down.
We finished off the intensity week today with a tough uphill time trial. As you can see from the profile image below, it was relentless. It took me just under 40 minutes - which is about on par with a tough 15km race - except without any rest.
Now it's time for some rest and more time on the jump-hill.
I had last week off from jumping and my brother had a break from the Winter Sports School in Park City. We spent the week back home - which doesn't happen all that often. I hadn't slept in my own bedroom since Christmas of 2012. Following a late-night arrival on Sunday, we had all of two days at home before we headed north for some lake time.
I stayed busy in the two days in Eau Claire with training and a little coaching. On Monday my brother and I skied with two cross-country skiers on the Chippewa Valley Nordic (CVN) high school team. I attempted to join a group mountain bike ride that evening, but it got rained out. I still had fun - just no one else showed up.
I spent Tuesday morning with more of the younger kids from CVN and two of their coaches. We did a few drills, but mostly kept it fun with an agility course, easy skiing, and a great lunch thanks to Coach Karen. CVN has grown so much since the early days - actually just a few years ago when I was in high school. I had a blast seeing the young kids work hard and I think they had some fun on rollerskis too.
Thanks to Ted Theyerl for the pictures. They're posted on CVN's Facebook page. Click on the link here to give their page a like.
That evening, I drove a full car of skiers over to St. Paul to jump their 46 and 20 meter hills. I used to make that trip a lot when I was younger, but this time I left my skis at home and acted as coach. (Yes, I've done a lot of coaching in the last couple weeks, but don't worry, this only motivates me more as an athlete).
The Eau Claire contingent brought over 4 full cars of parents and young skiers to jump. Again, I was extremely impressed by how much our ski clubs seem to be growing. When I jumped in St. Paul, we usually had one other family to carpool with.
More good news: by next summer plastic jumping will be done on Eau Claire's 7, 15 and 30 meter hills. As great as it is to see parents willing to drive their kids an hour-and-a-half to jump, I'm sure they'll be even happier to jump right in Eau Claire all summer.
Early Wednesday morning my brother, parents and I trekked north to our place in Canada.
My Grandpa bought this place just over the Minnesota border over 50 years ago. My mom has been going up here for most of her life, and apparently not much has changed up there. It's not extremely remote but it sure it nice to turn the iPhone off, eat by the campfire and watch the sunsets from the lake.
Here's some of the pictures. The weather was gorgeous. For once Rainy Lake didn't live up to its name.
Here's Ben, Ben and I skiing. I'm not sure but I think he has surpassed my skills on the slalom ski.
We flew back Sunday night. Back to normal training for a fews days. I'm off to Aspen on Thursday with my team for a fundraiser. Stay posted!
It's the annual Springer Tournee in Park City. That means a full town with most of the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined community from around the nation here for the week.
On Tuesday we had our third round of yearly testing for the junior athletes. A healthy dose of chaos ensued as each national team member found their group of skiers for the day. Soon, however, we were leading them through a quality warm-up and heading up to the jumps as coaches and athletes.
I coached a group of boys on the 20 meter and 40 meter, most of whom I didn't know before Tuesday. I enjoyed seeing the challenge of ski jumping from the coach's perspective. Hopefully I had some new insights to offer to them. I noticed that as a group they were just happy to be out jumping.
After the morning of jumping, we went indoors to test our athletes physical capabilities: speed, agility, power and quickness. By now, the coaches should have some good data from the three years of testing the younger athletes. Also, I hope this motivates these athletes to train hard and improve their scores.
Although this is a busy week of events and competitions, it was 100% worthwhile to spend the day helping our younger athletes. It wasn't long ago that I was in their shoes, and I know that it's the little things that add up to a local skier turning into a National team athlete.
Back from another successful NoCo week in Steamboat. This was my seventh straight Independence Day spent in Steamboat. It's always a great week of Nordic Combined and summer atmosphere.
We kicked things off with the annual Fish Creek Time Trial. It's pretty much all uphill; maybe not the most fun but a great way to measure fitness. Here's Brett Denney leading Michael Ward, with Sommer Schrock and Ben Loomis trying to hang on in the background. We had a good mix of junior athletes that raced in the TT with us.
A few of the braver (or dumber) of us sped back down after.
The day after the TT we sat down as a big group and looked at videos from the race. Our coach, DJ, gave a great talk to the juniors and then we went out to make the changes. This was definitely a highlight of the week. We paired up younger athletes with national team members and made some great improvements in a short time.
Friday was the annual main street sprint race. After a good jump comp the day before, I put down a solid race to finish third overall. Taylor Fletcher screamed by me early on to take an easy win, and Brett Denney took second.
After the roller ski race, we went straight to the jump hill for the Elimination jump competition. I made it through all 4 rounds to the final 6, but didn't have the distance in the end to crack the podium. Jake Locke (one of the younger "dark horses" from PC) through down some long jumps and took the well deserved win. Not surprisingly, my brother, Ben, put down the long jump of the day in round two, but touched on the landing and was thus eliminate early.
Finally, towards the end of the competition, they announced the newly structured national team. The A-team consists of Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher and Bill Demong. The B-team members are Brett Denney, Michael Ward, me and (new to the B-team) Ben Berend. They also named a new development team, the C-team. Jasper Good, Aleck Gantick, Nicholas Madden, Erik Lynch and Ben Loomis were named to the C-team.
I want to throw out a congrats to all the guys rounding out this strong team, especially new members Ben Berend and Ben Loomis. I hope they're excited as I am to have them on board!
Until next time!
What have I been up to for the past month? Here's a brief summary in photos:
Lots of riding. Bikes, not horses.
Spent a weekend camping in the Tetons.
I've been getting out on the trails more and more this spring.
A little indoor climbing. Time to get outdoors now.
One more bike pic. This one's from the Cole Sport Share the Road Group Ride. I think we had close to a hundred cyclists come out for a fun, safe ride around town.
Had a blast running in the annual Running for Ed[ucation].
Ok, this last day of skiing was 32 days ago, but still, its crazy to see how fast the mountains.
And last but not least: school. I took Effective Business Writing and a Marketing class last term, now I'm onto Survey of Art and Journalism. Should be a little more fun!
May means Maymester at Westminster for many USSA athletes. I take online classes year-round, so this isn't the only time I attend school, but it is the only chance I get to sit face to face with my classmates and teacher. By now, I've gotten used to the challenges of online education, but I do appreciate the opportunity to participate in a real classroom environment.
This summer and fall, I'll continue to take classes online with Westminster. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my education that Westminster provides for USSA athletes. For the past 9 years, Westminster has provided USSA with an allotment of credits for its athletes. The partnership has grown as USSA has expanded to include more sports. This year Westminster boasted 23 Winter Olympians - the most from any University in the US.
To celebrate the joint success, Westminster had a fun parade and BBQ last week with students, faculty and USSA student athletes.
2014 Olympic medalists Devin Logan (left) and Maddie Bowman said a few words thanking Westminster for their support.
Some of the athletes are able to take summer and fall courses at Westminster. But with our travel schedule, May is usually the only time that I'm in one place for 4 weeks straight. That's the beauty of Maymester, which is, as the name suggests, a quick month-long term.
As we look forward to Nordic Combined's future without USSA, Westminster remains an uncertainty. We're hoping that the school will extend the program and give us the time to finish out our degrees with Westminster. At the moment, besides Bill Demong, our entire team is in the Westminster program - that's the highest participation of any team. For now, I'll focus on my Business Writing course and keep taking classes while I have the chance.
I keep replaying a conversation I had with a couple teammates and our strength coach early on this season. “How much better would you do if someone put a gun to your head and said, ‘you have to make this happen’?” he asked us. “You’d have to step up your game, right?” At the time, in the shelter of the Center of Excellence, budding with excitement for the upcoming competitions, I thought, Yeah sure, but...I don’t know, I’m doing about all I can. As easy as this was to say, it is nearly impossible to truly imagine this scenario.
I should have let me imagination run a little wilder. Turns out, I did have a gun to my head. We all did.
Skip past the winter, it’s now Monday, April 14, 2014. I’m out of town, riding bikes for a few days, so I got the news via text message. “Times are bad, “ Brett said. “Simply put, no program, no coaches, no prep or comp budgets,” coach Greg wrote in his email. The whole team is off the team. I didn’t tell my mom or brother (who were with me) until my mom found out for herself on Wednesday, sooner than I had thought the news would be out. Even then, it didn’t sink in and feel real. I told myself, they didn’t really cut us. We could come up with enough donors to stay on with USSA.
And this has some truth, but it isn’t too likely. Come July 31st, unless we come up with somewhere around a half a million dollars, we’re not a part of the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and my coaches are without a job. We will be able to come up with some money, and nobody is throwing in the towel. But the fact is, we’ve been cut.
Would I have done better if I had known that this winter was so critical? Would my team have walked away from Sochi with medals and a “Vancouver repeat” story? Tough to say. But that’s history now. The gun was pointed right at us, a motivation that I, for one was not looking for. Now, however, things are different.
My beliefs in psychology: intrinsic motivation is better than external and the carrot is better than the stick. Bases on what my coaches had to say, they have similar beliefs.
“WE ARE IN THIS BOAT BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T BELIEVE IN US!” Greg wrote in the aforementioned email. “SHOW THOSE PEOPLE THEY ARE WRONG – YOU ARE PODIUM POTENTIAL!!!” Cutting us from the USSA isn’t what anyone was asking for, don’t get me wrong. But it is also the most motivating thing that has ever happened to me.
Now, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. We’re all fired up. Finances will be tough and this year will be more uncertain and difficult for us all. But every time I leave to train, in the gym, outside, or on the jumps, I’m going to think, “You’re wrong.”
This type of motivation, this chip on our shoulder, is going to keep the team fighting harder than ever. We’re underdogs now – more than we have been in a decade. And it could just be the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that we have enough people who still believe and will stand by our side through the transition. I’m sincerely grateful for this support. And to those who don’t believe in us, I hope you come to regret your decision.
It's been a pretty incredible 11 years for US Nordic Combined. We took home 10 Olympic and World Championship medals in that time period. But now it's time for a new chapter of success from some new faces.
I can’t pretend that being able to execute a clean, powerful ski jump or racing around a cross-country track at maximal effort are the kind of skills that will transfer into “real life.” The actual skills used for Nordic Combined are pretty specific and won’t be good for much else. But, there’s no doubt that this sport teaches intangible skills that we will never lose.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve been practicing adaptability (whether consciously or not). To compete in Chaikovsky, Russia and Hoydalsmo, Norway, we traveled countless hours via just about every mode of transportation possible. Overall, I think we all can strive for better results, but in no way do I regret the miles we traveled to get to compete.
The first challenge of this trip was simply getting to Russia. After securing our visas, we left early Monday morning and arrived in Moscow on midday Tuesday, the 31st. On Wednesday, a short flight plus a “few” hour van ride turned into an all day haul. We arrived in Chaikovsky for a late dinner, much too late for our usual mid-week interval session.
On the weekend, when the competitions rolled around, the temperatures barely crept to the edge of the FIS legal limit at the height of the day (-20 °C). As a group, we were smart and kept our pre-race workouts to a minimum. Taylor Fletcher skied the fastest race time by over 30 seconds both days. On Sunday, in my first individual World Cup, I skied the 13th race time, and these races were all following an unusual week of traveling and lack of training. It goes to show that if you have confidence in your abilities and can ignore the uncontrollable elements, it’s easier to roll with the punches and perform at your best.
We left Chaikovsky in a fully loaded van in the middle of Sunday night. After two flights and five hours of time change, we arrived back in familiar ground at the Munich airport. Taylor and Brett drove to France for the next World Cup, and the rest of the crew started the journey up to Norway. Most of the teams fly up to Oslo and then drive to Hoydalsmo, but we get a little extra team bonding time in the vans. We drove straight through Germany and Denmark, then hopped on a ferry to Norway. Back in our vans and three hours more on the road, we arrived in Hoydalsmo Tuesday night, feeling somewhat jetlagged for the second week in a row.
After Hoydalsmo, we were planning on continuing on the circuit in Germany. Mother Nature, however, had other plans, and the organizers made the decision to cancel. Apparently it’s pretty tough to hold Nordic events without snow...
Again, we had to adapt, and decided that the best thing to do would be to get home. After competing in Norway, we retraced our steps back down to Munich and flew back to Salt Lake City. When the competition circuit is an ocean and thousands of miles away, it’s tough to be at home in the middle of the winter. But, the opportunity for good quality training between competitions is really a rare blessing in disguise. We can use the next couple weeks to get our jumping up to 100%, keep our racing fresh and fast, and be ready to kick some butt in the second half of the season.
The dynamic and uncertain schedule of an athlete can be tough, but I’m learning that if I choose to, it can just be a fun journey. I’m grateful that the NNF supports and makes these crazy adventures possible!
US NoCo is back on the road and covering some serious ground.
This last weekend we competed at World Cup in Chaikovsky, Russia. Taylor, Brett, Nick, Michael, Coach Greg and I all made the journey into Siberia in the hope of earning some World Cup points. Chalkovsky’s a sweet new venue complete with a sports hotel, full range of jump hill sizes with all the modern touches and a killer XC race venue. But it’s not exactly the easiest place to get to. (Actually it’s about the toughest place on the World Cup…) We got our Russian Visas just in time and made the journey in three solid days, starting with fligts from SLC to JFK to Moscow. We spent New Years in Moscow, then flew deeper into Russia to a city named Perm. From Perm, it was a five hour bus ride through the countryside to Chalkovsky.
We went to bed early on New Year’s eve but did spend some time exploring Moscow and seeing the beautiful architecture near the red square. Lots of people and lots of soldiers out. Walking around Moscow we stuck out like blueberries in our matching jackets in a sea of dark trench coats and faded fur. It’s always cool to see a new city and experience a new culture.
Overall the weekend wasn’t what I was hoping for and it all came down to the jumping on Friday. We only had two training jumps and then the provisional jump (which is also qualification) so we really needed to be on our game right off the bat, which I really wasn’t. I just missed qualification for Saturday by jumping to 51st in provisional. So I spent Saturday spectating and getting ready for Sunday, which isn’t exactly what I was hoping to do. Sunday we woke up to some serious winds but went to the hill in hopes of getting a comp off on the big hill (Friday and Saturday was on the K95). I was one of the few who got a jump off, but they called it after 12 jumpers. This meant we raced off Friday’s provisional jump. So we all started the race much farther back than we would hope, but at leas then they use provisional for the race there’s no cut - everyone gets to race. I skied up to Brett in the race and we worked our way up as much as we could, but we really needed to start closer to the field to be in the thick of the race. I skied the 13th fastest race time and finished in 37th, solid for my first individual World Cup, but short of my goal of getting into the points (top 30).
Taylor was definitely the shining star of the team this weekend. Both days he through down wicked fast races and finished in 6th, from 49th and 43th after the jumping!
It was great to get a chance to compete on World Cup but now it’s back to Continental Cup. We took the long road to Hoydalmso, Norway for next weekend’s competitions.. Bus ride to Perm, Perm to Moscow flight, Moscow to Munich. In Munich we picked up Tyler Smith, one of the NTG athletes and road tripped up to northern Germany, spent the night, then finished off the drive to the far end of Denmark. Short ferry ride from Denmark to Norway then a couple more hours of driving to Hoydalsmo. We’re now five hours behind Chalkovsky time, which seems crazy that occurring to time zones were just about halfway back to the states. (But Russia didn’t quite get their time zones right. In Chalkovsky sunrise came at 10:30 am and then it stayed light until after 6 pm).
After Norway, we will trek back down to Germany and hopefully compete in another weekend of Continental Cups in Klingenthal, Germany. At present they don’t have any snow so we’re crossing our fingers that they can pull it off.
Alright it's safe to say now that the season has really started. Over Thanksgiving it half-started for a couple of my teammates and I, but we first got our feet back into NC comps this weekend in Steamboat Springs.
No ski jumps in West Yellowstone (or anywhere in Montana I'm sad to say) so we used this weekend to hop into two tough Super Tour cross country races and get our race legs back under us. We weren't as fast as we'd like to be against the XC guys, but I focused on my body's feelings and left West with some confidence.
I had plenty to be thankful for in beautiful West Yellowstone. Beautiful skiing, plenty of snow, some good racing and tough hills, bunking up in a hotel room with 4 other guys... just the usual Thanksgiving round-up.
Brett and I were the only ones turkey dancing for Fasterskier's Thanksgiving shoutout video. Unless you're really bored please don't watch it in entirety. But if you want to laugh at us less than graceful athletes, we kick off the video.
This weekend we competed in Steamboat Spring's winter start competition against the NTG and other aspiring US NC racers. It's always a pleasure to be back in Steamboat and see that not much has changed in that happy little town.
I took the win on Saturday's comp, and swapped podium places with Nick on Sunday. Saturday I jumped into a position from where I had the lead to myself for most of the race and just got to ski my own pace. On Sunday Nick and I dueled it out and his quick sprint left me in the dust in the finishing yards.
It was great to be on top of the podium and to just enjoy competing. But I'll admit that this was the easiest competition I'll have for the rest of the season. No freebies from here on out!
Another great part of the weekend was spending more time with my brother, my dad and the rest of the Midwest crew who made the trek out for the week. Central has some talented jumpers AND nordic combiners coming up the pipeline and developing into hard working, mature young athletes. I wish I could be around this crew more to train with the up and coming Nordic Combiners from back home.
That's about all for now. Thanks to Madshus racing for some new super fast Redline skis and SPORT 2000 Ski Jumping for helping me fly. And thank you for reading!
And if somehow you're not bored of Nordic Combined (and yours truly), here's more!
“The level of commitment and mental and physical toughness that are required for this sport are attributes that will translate to anything you do in life,” Matt Gantick said. “This is such an incredibly unique experience, and very few people in the world have the opportunity.” - Steamboat Pilot
Check out this great article starting Alec Gantick from the Steamboat Pilot. Alec's on the National Training Group and does a great job of telling the real-ness of our lives. Watch out for him this season.http://www.steamboattoday.com/news/2013/dec/08/chasing-olympic-dream-requires-work-ethic-sacrific/
I made a blurb in the Steamboat Magazine here with an honest shoutout to my mother:
And for a silly one. Here's the latest NBC Olympic viral:
Unless some sneaky Norwegian or Finns are jumping without telling the world, we've had the first jumps of the 2014 winter season right here in Park City. It's really great to back on snow and to have some solid training ahead before we start competing. Here's a video of me, from our first session, yesterday. Huge props to the Utah Olympic Park crew for getting the hill ready, despite having only a few wintery days to make snow.
Last week, we made a trip up to Ogden to spend some time flying in a wind tunnel. A very smart man named Layne built it this summer (reportedly from youtube videos) and opened it up to whomever is interested. We're incredibly fortunate to have this technology within an hour drive, and to have a team that is supportive of using it. Perhaps the most surprising thing from our time in the tunnel was how exhausting it was. But, when you think about it, usually we are lucky to fly for four second in the air. Here, with the help of a harness and 65 mph winds, we were taking turn at 3 - 4 minute flying efforts. Without a doubt, this time was invaluable. I could immediately feel the changes I needed to make when I brought these ideas to the hill yesterday and today.
For more from the wind tunnel, check my vimeo page from the above link of my jumping.
Where am I?