The Powerful Mind (2/14/13)

My ski tech, Peter, giving me a pep talk 
Me and the rest of Team USA during the team competition 
Working on my jumping form

A season for a ski jumper usually includes the circuit of World Cups, Continental Cups or FIS Cups in which one athlete will follow those competitions depending on their level. As you know I am on the World Cup circuit and those 16 competitions take up the majority of my season. However, aside from World Cups, I also have World Championships, which take place in late February and World Junior Championships.

I competed in World Junior Championships last month, which includes all Nordic athletes (ski jumpers, Nordic combined and cross country skiers). For ski jumpers and Nordic combined the age is under-19 but for cross country it continues up to U23. These events are held every year and this year it was in Liberec, Czech Republic. I had jumped in Liberec twice before and although I knew it was a hard hill, it fits my jumping style really well.

The week before junior worlds, I was training in Italy and had had some of the best jumps of the winter, if not my life. I was beyond confident going into the event and was ready to complete my medal set. I had won a bronze in 2010 and silver in 2012, and I could feel that this was the year to shine.

I was wrong.

All my training jumps were ranked in the top three and going into competition day, I was happy, having fun and enjoying life. You could say this all came crashing down when I literally “crashed down” from the sky and jumped short. As I landed my first jump and realized I was only in sixth and 20 points out of winning, my heart was literally crushed. I had dreamed of becoming junior world champion since the age of 13 and in all of about six seconds, it was over.

I walked down into my changing room and immediately broke down. It wasn’t that I was mad or upset, I just simply realized I couldnʼt handle the pressure. Keep in mind, I still had one more jump. After about two minutes I realized I had to pull myself together and get back to the top of the hill.

Of course my second jump was better, although I remained in sixth and walked away without a medal. I had wanted gold and I had gotten nothing. Again, after talking to coaches, teammates, parents, wax techs and officials the tears were never ending and it had finally sunk in that the competition was over.

I arrived back at the hotel and laid in my bed thinking about what had just happened. Then it came to me... Iʼm human. I simply woke up in the wrong mindset and messed up six seconds of my day which happened to be the ones that mattered most. But what are we if we arenʼt human? That is what makes the world go round, thatʼs what makes this world function and most importantly that is what makes ski jumping one of the hardest sports in the world.

I let myself get bogged down for a couple hours then picked myself up and left it all behind. It was a time of the past and the only thing I could do was learn from it. Since I was little my mom always told me itʼs not always about the results people often admire but the person you perceive to be in others’ eyes… because that, could be that hardest task of all.

Two days after the individual competition, we had a team competition in which four girls from one country compete together by adding up scores. To keep the story short, my second jump that day was 106 meters and I had set a new hill record on that very hill.

Although I had my best jump on the wrong day, mentally I knew I still had it in me. And that made me smile for a while.