It seems like it was the middle of the summer yesterday, but we're already through the first period of competitions for the 2019/20 winter season. My team and I started the winter with the "snow premiere" event in Falun, SWE in mid-November. This was my first time in Sweden, and while it didn't exceed my expectations of being a winter wonderland (it was rainy and warm most of the week), it was great to get back on snow that early in the season. We were able to jump on the K90 in Falun, and they groomed out about a 1.2km loop of snow near the cross country stadium and the ski jumps. It wasn't nearly as much snow as we had hoped for, but at least it was snow. Plenty of other teams were still jumping on plastic and roller skiing while we were in Sweden, and being able to get on snow as early as possible gave us an advantage.
Following the week in Falun, we travelled to Lillehammer, NOR for another week of solid training. In Lillehammer we were greeted by snow, cold temperatures, two functional ski jumps, and dozens of kilometers of cross country skiing. Additionally, we began to work with our teams new ski jumping coach, Gregor Linsig. Gregor has been coaching since I was born, and needless to say he knows a lot about ski jumping. We're all super stoked to have him with the team and all see the potential for big improvements on the ski jumping hill. Once our week of training in Lillehammer, NOR was finished, four of my teammates flew home and myself and Taylor Fletcher flew to Ruka, FIN to kick off the world cup season.
The competitions in Ruka are the first World Cups of the year for both Nordic combined and Cross Country skiing, and the Mens ski jumping world cup has their second event of the year here as well. This was my first time starting the season on World Cup which is both really gratifying and kind of stressful. It is gratifying in the sense that I made it, this is the top level of the sport. All of the training that I had done during the summer had paid off and earned me a spot on the World Cup team. It is kind of stressful in the sense that I made it, this is the top level of the sport. The people I am competing against are World Cup winners, Olympic and World Champions, Crystal Globe winners. It is extremely hard to not put extra pressure on yourself when you compete at that level. Of course you want to do your best, which usually means trying harder, which usually leads to doing worse. I 100% experienced that. None of the progress that I had made during ski jumping training the week before was prevalent during competition in Ruka because I think I was trying too hard. I wanted to prove that I belong at the World Cup level, which I believe on a good day that I do. However, for that opening World Cup weekend, none of my good days happened, and that showed on the results sheet.
Following disappointing weekends during both the Ruka and Lillehammer World Cup weekends, my coaches and I decided it would be more beneficial to return home to Park City a little bit early and compete at the Continental Cups that occurred this past weekend. Immediately following the decision to come home, I felt that I had failed. I was devastated that I hadn't even done well enough to stay at the competitions. After giving it a few hours of thought, I realized that the biggest thing that I had lost during the opening World Cups was my confidence, and that was also the biggest thing that I could gain by coming home to the Continental Cups.
I had a bit of a rough first day during the Continental Cup. I was only able to jump to 32nd place and ski up to 25th. This was also my first full 10k race of the season, and my first hard session after being at altitude after a month at roughly sea level.
The following day we did a mass start race, where all athletes start the cross country race at the same time and then compete in the ski jumping competition afterwards. I skied with a lot more confidence during the mass start and skied the 12th fastest time, less than a minute back from the winner. During the competition I had a jump that I was more pleased with and finished the day in 11th, my best mass start result! On Sunday, I had my best-feeling competition jump and started the race in 21st place. The race on Sunday was perhaps the most aggressively I have ever skied during a race. I skied exactly how I wanted to ski and didn't let anyone else get in my way. I finished the day in 10th place, with the 5th fastest time, and was happy to end the week on a high note. I'm hoping to build on those results and feelings when the Continental Cup season resumes after New Years!
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