LOOK AROUND. LOOK AROUND NEAR. AND LOOK AROUND FAR.
My first races on the World Cup circuit were an absolute mess. I would start last and finish last and be well over the limit the entire length of the track. Sometimes, I would crash hard and nervously laugh hard. I was trying to win every single race.
The stimuli of sipping coffees next to childhood idols with scenic backgrounds only fit for magazines was absolutely overwhelming. I’m a small town girl and I was starting a job in a fantasyland.
In my final years, I learned to balance both … to enjoy the view and competing my heart out with dialed-in focus precisely when I needed it.
The “view” was special. There were real-life superheroes everywhere you looked. Women like Daniela Merighetti who would get a metal plate quickly put in her jaw so she could fly overseas and ski 140km/h down a mountain for her country. Men like John Mulligan, a ski technician you could catch doing standing front flips on his skis while waiting in the lift line on just three hours of sleep, putting in 18 hour days regularly to help us win races by hundredths of a second.
I looked around a lot. I’m observant by nature and wanted to see if there was anything more I could be doing … another couple leg swings because Gut was doing it, another lens change last minute because Mancuso always managed to be fast and look awesome.
By the end of my career, I looked around a lot less. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces, but I knew exactly that what worked for me was a package deal of all the things I’d picked up along the way. I believe in people on pedestals. They worked hard for those positions and they’re worth emulating, but by no means should there be a gap between them and me. I started to value my own preparation, listen to a lot more music with a lot more volume and create confidence out of smart work.
In the final years of my career, I was laughably slow in training. My health gave me one or two great days a week and the rest was for learning and conserving. It became progressively more important to believe in the preparation that worked for me.
And then there was the real view … the vista. Globetrotting was such a perk of skiing on the World Cup circuit. It was only when my health, again, slowed down our ‘count’ (GS gates/day, SG runs/month, etc.) that my coach and I were able to enjoy the mountains as tourists.
At Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, for example is one the most romantic gems in Europe. The Trampolino Olimpico ski jump was built in 1955 and the surrounding town feels unchanged. The post office doesn’t even accept VISA. Ironically, the walk to get Euros took me down a street with a brand new view of the women’s World Cup downhill track. You could see the flow of the ‘Grande Curva’ and why it was so important to nail the entry to that turn. You could see the amazing ‘ramp’ that wrapped Tofana Schuss which was clearly the place to keep your head down for aerodynamic reasons and check out the photos at another time.
I’m grateful to have to looked around. As ski racers, and ambitious humans, we have goals and steps necessary to achieve those goals. But sometimes, it’s as simple as putting shoes on and walking outside or lifting your head (Bode-style) out of a proverbial start gate for a quick calibration of perspective.
– Photos by Michel Painchaud, for S-Media.