Competing at the Junior World Ski Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan was a truly great experience. First I want to write about the competitions and results. Then I’ll go a little more in depth about the culture.
For our entire team as a whole it was a week full of personal bests. The first event was one jump and a 10km race. In the first event I had a pretty bad showing on the jump hill. I was able to make up for it with a solid race and finished in 20th place right in front of my teammate Jasper Good who finished in 21st. Somer Schrock finished in 40th with Ben Loomis in 41st. This was a personal best for every single one of us, which is awesome to see.
The next event was one jump and a 5km race. I had a lot of confidence heading into this competition that with a technically good jump I could really put myself towards the top of the results sheet. With a shorter distance to race some of the faster skiers racing from the back wouldn’t have as much time to move up. At the top of the jump I was very focused on what needed to be done. I remember coming off the takeoff and immediately knowing it was a good one. My jump of 91 meters started me in 12th place for the race that afternoon. The race was extremely fast paced right from the beginning and I just put my head down and hammered. I don’t remember any details from the race because my mind shuts off when I push past a certain limit. I had no idea what place I was in when crossing the finish line, but was definitely hoping for a top 15. When my name flashed across the screen with the number 13 beside it I was pretty stoked. I’ve had such a hard time in the past executing on comp day so this was huge. My teammates had strong finishes as well with Jasper Good in 27th, Koby Vargas in 41st, and Somer Schrock in 44th.
On the final day we had a team competition. I was really proud of our young guys Ben Loomis and Koby Vargas. This was their first ever Junior World Champs and they did awesome. These guys definitely have bright futures ahead of them. We finished up in 7th place, which I think was solid for a young team. My previous two years we finished this event in 9th place so it’s progress.
I love World Juniors because it’s a great way to track my improvement over the years compared to kids my age from around the world. My results have shown me that hard work and preparation has paid off. Here are my results over the last three years.
2013: 33rd, 26th, and 9th in team event
2014: 26th, 23rd, and 9th in team event
2015: 20th, 13th, and 7th in team event
I look forward to continuing this trend of improvement because I’m still far from where I want to be.
Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan. This was the furthest east any of my teammates or myself had been. This was a culture none of us had ever experienced before so it was very interesting. Here are a few things we experienced.
Wearing masks everywhere due to bad air quality
Eating rice, pasta, and chicken for every single meal
Insane drivers on the road, which resulted in a couple near misses. One time in particular we went up on the sidewalk to avoid a car in the wrong lane.
My teammate Koby Vargas being asked by a woman if he was Justin Bieber
Being asked to take lots of selfies with the local people
Beautiful mountain ranges
Very few English-speaking people
A massage therapist who walked on us
Anyone can be a taxi driver in Kazakhstan. We got picked up in random unmarked cars a few times.
Another one of the pursuing story lines of the week was whether teammate Koby Vargas could get to BMI before the competition. For the ski jumping portion of our sport every athlete jumps on a certain size of skis based on their height. Then for each size of skis an athlete must meet a set weight. Koby Vargas should be on 258-centimeter skis but went down to 256’s because he is so light. Well we began to figure out that he was maybe even too light for 256’s. I would say he was eating an average of 8 meals a day and drinking his body weight in water. It was pretty hilarious because this hardly helped. The kid has a hall of fame metabolism. Thankfully on comp day Koby was able to just barely reach his BMI.
Being in Kazakhstan for a week was a very eye opening experience. It’s crazy how before, I took things like fresh air and good food for granted. A couple days ago in Munich I stepped out of the airport and took a big gulp of breathable air. A moment like this would have gone very unappreciated just weeks before. At that very instant though, air had never tasted so good.