Is This Real Life? (2/23/13)

I am standing at the top of the hill, I look down at my hands and they are shaking uncontrollably. I glance down at my legs and they are also...shaking. “Well, this is going to be interesting,” I think to myself. Some people ask me if I get scared at the top of the ski jump and my instant response is always no, never. Well I guess this makes me a liar because yesterday at World Championships I was scared as hell.

World Championships were held in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in the heart of the Dolomite mountains. Last year at this same venue, I had won back to back World Cups and broke the hill record twice in one weekend. I knew this was my hill but I had my doubts about the championships since my competition consisted of the already declared World Cup overall winner (Sara Takanashi). She had won four World Cups in a row coming into this week and not by a little; I would consider them blowout wins. Nonetheless, I wasn't going to give up easy on a hill that had my name written on it.

As we progressed through the week of official trainings, on the technical side of things, I saw myself struggle. I could simply not find the rhythm of my favorite ski jump. On Thursday, our third and final day of training, it clicked. I found my balance, my speed and of course the rhythm. My confidence was back, but would it be enough?

Friday rolled around and I was honestly so excited to jump. I was determined to have fun regardless of what happened on the hill and you could say I had a little more than a good time.

Friday at 5:30 p.m. CET, I was declared 2013 world champion.

 
Celebrating on the shoulders of my teammates Jessica Jerome
and Lindsey Van

I was leading after the first jump but only by a small margin so I knew my last jump had to be at the same level. I landed my second jump at 103 meters and truthfully, I didn't think it was enough. Regardless I threw a couple fist pumps in the air with a huge smile on my face. I came to a stop and turned around to look at the big screen. The points were being calculated and that will forever be the longest 30 seconds of my life.

The second I saw the "1" flash next to my name, I glanced over at the exit gates of the outrun only to see my teammates hurling themselves at me. As they reached me with outstretched arms, I instantly collapsed with happiness. I was finally able to gather myself to take off my skis and have them lift me up onto their shoulders. American flag in hand, we screamed and yelled in the outrun.

The next couple hours are slightly a blur. My dad, mom and brother were able to lean over the barriers to give me a hug and share their happiness. The flower ceremony soon followed, and the playing of the national anthem while I stood on the top of the podium will forever give me goose bumps in memory of that day.

I have yet to receive my actual gold medal as I type this. Although in exactly six hours, I will be listening to my family, friends, teammates, coaches and sponsors cheer me on as I step onto the top step of the podium. Because everyone knows, all those people helped me get to where I am today. A world champion.