|Team USA at the finish corral
|That's my U.S. flag hanging at the top of the World
|Me at the top of the downhill course, supporting my teammates|
|Beautiful view from the mountain in La Molina, Spain|
When I was selected to represent the United States at the International Paralympic Committee’s World Championships in La Molina, Spain, it was something that I hadn’t expected. I feel like I am skiing well, but didn’t think I would get selected. To be honest, I was very nervous. This was a whole new stage to be competing on – the best of the best, if you will. I was nervous but excited. My plan of attack was to use the two downhill training runs to get my confidence and roll forward from there. But we were unaware that I was not qualified to compete in downhill; we had been misinformed. That kind of threw me for a loop and I don’t think I handled it as well as I should have.
My first race would be the super giant slalom. The course started with a long section of flats where you could just grab a tuck and let the skis run, the middle section had some cranking turns and the bottom hit the steepest part of the course with long, open turns where you were hitting about 70 miles per hour. It was a good course, I just didn’t ski it well; all year my coaches have been saying that I am skiing too direct. This time I skied too round – go figure. I finished in 19th place. We were scheduled to race slalom the next day, but due to extremely high winds the race was cancelled. We got the race off the day after that and the course ate people up. Out of 82 racers that started, only 29 of us finished both runs. I finished in 11th place, which would be my highest finish of the series. Our next races were super combined and giant slalom, where I finished 17th and 18th, respectively.
My take on this whole series was I went into it very intimidated about the level of competition. I wasn’t mentally prepared and it showed in my results. So, how am I going to fix this? Well I need to start using the tools I have available; this summer I was introduced to a sports psychologist at the U.S. Olympic Training Center named Suzie Riewald. I worked with her throughout the summer, but now have some things to bring back to her that we can work on together and find some ways to not let this become a reoccurring problem. For those of you who have never worked with a sports psych, I highly recommend it. It is another tool in your bag that may give you a competitive edge. I also realized that I have to just turn off my mind and ski. The first run of GS I did just that – it might not have been my prettiest run ever, but it was fast. The second run, I tried to take all of the coaching tips and apply them and my form was horrible. One thing that I never have to worry about while racing is my equipment. We have two of the best technicians in the business; Mark Kelly and Luke Byers make sure that when I leave the gate I never have to worry about anything but the guy steering the skis. Thanks, fellas!
Overall, the experience was amazing; I learned some valuable ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s and I realized that, while my finishes may not have met all of my expectations, I can compete with these guys at the highest level. I need more time in the gym, I need better form and I need to be better mentally prepared. But these are things I can certainly fix and overcome. I am writing this blog one year to the date from the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. WOW. Less than 365 days until I get to put those aforementioned skills to the test. I am very excited, but remember three years ago when I thought 2014 would never get here. Now I only have less than a year before it’s here.
Again, thank you to all my fans out there who support me; I wouldn’t be able to do it without you all! Go Team USA!