Rookie Initiation…

23 Sep

Outside of the Portillo hotel. Photo by: Jonathan Selkowitz

Ski racing is an individual sport that requires a team to function.  For a picture of the challenge in this scenario, imagine this: your fiercest competitors are a second family. Although you may travel as a team unified behind a country’s flag, once on the ski hill your teammate is your top competitor at every turn (pun intended). They act as your sisters, your best friends, your advice givers, but they’re also the girls you strive to beat, and the girls trying to beat you, your rivals, and your source of secret envy. It can be trying at times; it can be great at times.  Most of the time, we know when we’re starting to get on edge and learn how to avoid explosions. My personal way out is going on a recovery walk… alone.

Packing up the truck to get outta there! Photo by: Kristian Saile

I recently got back from Portillo, Chile with a new group of girls, new for me at least. It was my first camp with the Women’s US World Cup Speed Team. They are the fastest women’s speed team in the world, and this was my initiation into the big leagues. Some of these girls have been on the team for over 10 years. They’ve skied with each other for years now and been a part of an ever-changing family. I was like an adopted sibling. I found myself following them around like an annoying little sister, always wondering what they were doing, trying to be included in their conversations, and bugging them, I’m sure. I’m used to this because I am a little sister.

Fortunately for me, these new sisters were nice to me. They looked out for me, included me, kept me in line, and had the perfect amount of sarcastic comments to keep me from being too annoying, but not enough to hurt my feelings…too much! One of my favorite comments from one of the girls was, “why don’t you just walk off that cliff.” Out of context it sounds really harsh, and it was definitely the most pointed of the trip, but all the girls guiltily laughed and reassured me that she was joking. Hmmm…

I was constantly reminded how easy I was getting it, and I kept it in the back of my mind the whole trip, making sure I wasn’t overstepping my role as a rookie. I tried my hardest to stay in the background off the hill, watching the girls, listening to the coaches, but making sure I wasn’t in the background while training. I lapped with the girls and watched them ski down the hill, saw where their line (there are different ways to make it down the course, some lines are faster than others) and if it was different than mine and adjusted it accordingly. I saw how they worked with the coaches from inspection all the way into video that night. I tried to mimic their form on the steep sections and find my tuck in the same places on the flats. I noted what they were doing for their recovery – many different routines.

Downhill track before the sun hits it. Photo by: Kristian Saile

It was like being behind the scenes of my favorite movie. I got to watch the fastest women’s speed team in the world in real time with out any screens. It was a great experience and I can’t wait for more.

Ski lineup in the morning. Photo by: Kristian Saile

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