I absolutely love the sport of Nordic Combined but I believe I love the challenge of it even more. The last couple weeks have been especially challenging. I went from jumping into the top 30 of a World Cup to underperforming over and over again on the Continental Cup. I jumped to 30th, 35th, and 34th over the course of two Continental Cup weekends. I know that I am capable of jumping into the top 10 in these events consistently and that’s what makes these results so frustrating.
After two disappointing weekend in Scandinavia, our team traveled to Planica, Slovenia for another weekend of Continental Cups. Unlike the previous weekends, in Planica we were competing on the K125 (Big hill). I was really looking forward to this because I know how strong I am at jumping big hills. Jumping big hills is a whole another game. Jumpers can’t get away with as many mistakes and the time gaps tend to be bigger for the cross-country race.
In the competition on Saturday I laid down a 123.5 meter jumps which put me in 10th place for the race. This was my best jumping results so far this season. I was getting so psyched for the race and that’s what made the next event so scary.
I finished up testing my skis at the cross-country venue and was walking them back towards our wax cabin. Ever since I injured my ankle I have been pretty cautious about putting myself in any situation that could cause injury. This is kind of ironic because in this case I was too cautious. Instead of walking down the steep path all the other athletes were walking down, I thought the powder to the side would have more grip. I set my left foot down in the powder and slipped on a patch of ice underneath. As I slipped, I felt my left knee buckle out to the side and pop. Honestly the first thought that went through my mind was that I just blew my knee out. Anyone who has ever felt the feeling of a knee going in a direction it shouldn’t go understands how scary it can be. I regained my composure and walked around a bit realizing nothing was torn because I could walk a bit and put weight on it. I quickly came to the conclusion that it was an mcl sprain because I’ve had this injury in the past and the inside of my knee was extremely sore.
By this time, it was one hour until the race and time for me to start warming up. I went out and skied for about 30 minutes very easy and it felt alright. Usually my pre race warm-up consists of a 30 minute ski, 10 minute run with plyos and light stretching, then go race. At this point my knee was feeling fine so I tried to stick to my routine and started running with my teammate Jasper Good. Right away I realized this was not a good decision. I couldn’t run at all. I returned to the locker room, changed into my race suit, and headed to the start. I could reevaluate my knee after the race, but for now I had one focus. Competing.
I love being towards the front of the race. It’s a fact that the better I jump the stronger I race. I got into a really good group from the beginning. I was skiing with a group of about 8 skiers. After the first lap we had caught a few other skiers and the group got even larger. I don’t know what place exactly but the front of my group was definitely in the top 10. On the first two laps I was in 14th position at the top of the biggest climb. At the end of the second lap (5km) I dropped off the back of the group. I was fighting to grab back on for most of the 3rd lap but eventually they got away for good. By the 4th and final lap I was absolutely spent and skiing alone in 18th place. I remember seeing two Austrians skiing together ahead of me with bib number 3 and 7. Also a group of 5 guys was closing on me fast. I put my head down and hammered but it wasn’t enough. I got passed by the group behind me and ended up finishing in 23rd place. I looked at the results after the race and it killed me how close I was to the top 15. The two Austrians just ahead of me held off the pack that passed me and finished in the top 15, just 25 seconds ahead of me. After going a few weeks without a top 30 finish it was nice to get my confidence back. Also Jasper Good collected his first ever top 30 finish on the Continental Cup finishing in 30th place, which was awesome.
During the race I completely forgot about knee. The beautiful thing about pushing yourself so hard is your brain shuts off. After the race my knee was busted up pretty good and I could hardly put weight on it. I immediately put ice on it and kept it elevated for the rest of the night.
I am an extremely competitive human being. I’ve been wired this way ever since I can remember. My mom can tell anyone about the time I berated my teammate for scoring on the wrong goal in soccer, I was five years old. I always have been and always will be a competitor. That’s what made my decision on Sunday so tough. I woke up and had no doubt in my mind I would compete. After trying to warm up however, I started to question if it was smart. While trying to run I could feel how unstable my knee was. The ligaments on the inside of my knee were pretty stretched out. I made the call to sit the day out. It crushed me because I knew I could get another top 30 finish but at the end of the day it was the right call. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my dad who stopped by in Slovenia to cheer on the team with Rick Mewborn. We had a good time and they were able to cheer me up.
After consistent ice and elevation on Sunday and Monday I was ready to train again. The World Junior team had a great week of training in Planica, Slovenia. Tomorrow we will fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan for the Junior World Championships (Under 20 Championships). Our team consists of three new faces. This will be Jasper and I’s third JWC’s. Ben Loomis, Koby Vargas, and Somer Schrock will be competing in their first ever JWC’s. It’s really fun to be able to compete and train with some of the young up and coming kids in the sport of US Nordic Combined. I’m excited to keep everyone updated on our results and experiences in Kazakhstan!
No ski jump is the same. Every hill has different trajectories, angles, and feelings to it. This means jumping new hills is very exciting but it can also be very frustrating. Sometimes a hill just works for a jumper and sometimes it can be very challenging. This last weekend in Norway, the hill challenged our team as a whole. I think I speak for our entire team when I say that our results last weekend didn’t reflect our true ability.
On Saturday it was completely dumping snow when we woke up. After sitting at the top of the jump for about an hour they finally made the decision to cancel the jumping. This meant that we would race off of the provisional from the day before. I started in 30th place and skied back to 40th. I don’t like starting that far back in the race. Everyone is gunning to ski up into the top 30 and people go out way too hard and just blow up. I’m much more comfortable towards the front so I can ski my own race. Obviously I’m going to need to learn how to race from any position so it was a good learning experience. The result was incredibly disappointing because I know that I’m capable of so much more but it’s important to move on and stay positive.
Sunday was supposed to be even worse weather with extremely high winds forecasted. However, I’ve learned to always plan on competing because anything can happen and it’s important to be prepared mentally. Throughout the night I could hear the wind ripping alongside the hotel with force. When I woke up though, it was calm and beautiful outside. Luckily we were able to compete and I was really psyched to redeem myself on the jump hill. Unfortunately I struggled even more on Sunday and started in 35th place. The results don’t actually portray how the day went for me because I felt a lot stronger in the race on Sunday. I skied in a group for the first 3 laps and we were putting in a solid pace. The wind had picked up a lot in the afternoon and this made it very important to be in a group while racing. At the very end of the third lap a gap formed and I tried to close it but was caught alone in the headwind. I ended up skiing the last two laps alone and at times felt like I was going backwards due to the wind. It was so painful. Once again I finished in 40th place.
In other news, USA Nordic Combined had a strong weekend on the World Cup. My teammate Adam Loomis scored his first World Cup points on Saturday finishing in 21st place. This is a huge achievement and everyone was pumped for him. On Sunday my teammate and roommate Taylor Fletcher skied up from 37th to 5th in the World Cup! He also recorded the fastest ski time, which is so impressive. His brother Bryan finished right behind him in 8th. This gives all of us young athletes a lot of confidence that someday we can get to that level.
On Monday we left Hoydalsmo at 8 am and drove 10 hours till we reached Falun, Sweden at 6 pm. When I told one of the German athletes that we were driving to Falun he couldn’t stop laughing. The German team flew back to Germany for a few days and will fly back up to Sweden later in the week. It’s incredible how big the budgets for some of these teams are.
This weekend we have a team spring on Saturday and an individual competition on Sunday. I’ll update my blog about all the happenings next week!
First of all, I have updated my website a little bit and added a photo updates and video page. I will be updating the photo page with slideshows from all our competition weeks. On the video page you can check out the full competition videos from last weekend. It's pretty cool so check it out!
The World Cup is HARD. That was one of my many takeaways from last weekend in Schonach, Germany. It was a great experience and I'm grateful for the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. They may not know it but I learned a lot from Bryan and Taylor just being around them, skiing with them, and seeing how they handle different things. They great role models and give me an example of how to be extremely successful on the top level of the sport.
To compete in the World Cup athletes have to jump into the top 50 in the provisional jump on friday. I had a solid jump and ended up in 37th, qualifying me for the individual event on sunday.
Saturday was a 4x5 team event. All four athletes jump for each nation then ski a 5km leg before tagging off to their next teammate. Team USA had solid jumps but definitely not our best. Taylor Fletcher had the strongest jump for our team. After the jumping we were in 7th place and starting 1:16 seconds behind the leaders. The order we chose for skiing was Bryan, myself, Adam, then Taylor anchoring the final leg. The idea for this was for Bryan to ski up to the Czech team, me to hang with them, then Adam and Taylor to try to move up even further. A downpour of rain began after the jumping and showed no sign of letting up. Bryan skied a really fast leg and did his job and tagging off to me in 8th place right with the Italian and Czech teams. Unfortunately I was not able to hang with either team. Skiing the second lap for the Italian team was Olympic bronze medalist Allesandro Pittin. I hung with him for a few minutes and thought I could hold on for at least a lap, then he took off and left me in his dust. I tagged off to Adam still in 8th place but with considerable time margins to the teams in front of us. Adam and Taylor skied awesome races and we finished up in 7th place right where we started. If I could have hung with the guys skiing my leg better then we could have been in an even better position. Next time I will do better. After the race we were all soaked and had pretty much run out of dry clothes. The area in between our cabins and the race course had turned into a massive puddle. Running back to our cabin after my race I was falling into the puddles almost up to my knees. It was quite the experience and I now believe any race condition will seem balmy in comparison. The rest of the day was spent doing anything possible to dry our clothes. I was blasting my clothes with a hair drying in desperation.
On sunday we woke up to a beautiful day and mostly dry clothes. I had my best jump of the weekend in the competition which I was pretty psyched about. My 95 meter jump was good enough for 28th place and 1:16 back in the race. I think it's insane how competitive the World Cup is. In the Continental Cup I can jump into the top 20 with average jumps but a good jump here was 28th! Not only that but the start times are way tighter on the World Cup. This makes for way closer races and if your not on top of your game you will get blown right out the back. The first lap felt like I was in a Nascar race driving a prius. Athletes were just flying past me and there was nothing I could do about it. By the second lap I was all alone towards the back and thought I was having a terrible race. On the third lap I started to see athletes blowing out the back towards me and realized I wasn't all alone at the back. Overall it wasn't a terrible race but I need to really improve my skiing in order to hang in the top 30. Bryan skied up from 33rd place to 9th and Taylor went from 49th to 24th! I finished up in 46th place, first World Cup weekend in the books. It was pretty incredible to see Bryan and Taylor skiing up so far and posting the 2nd and 3rd fastest times. I'm excited to keep learning from them and hope to follow in their footsteps.
On monday morning my coach Martin Bayer and I woke up at 3:45 am and drove to Kiel, Germany. We then hopped on a boat over to Norway where we picked up Jasper Good, Colin Delaney, and Michael Ward. From Oslo we drove to Hoydalsmo, Norway where we will be competing in Continental Cups this weekend.
Thanks to everyone who make it possible for US Nordic Combined and myself to chase our dream of being the best in the world. It's truly a blessing.