Thursday, December 21, 2006

what makes bode different

If you've been following the current World Cup season, you may know that Bode Miller already has three wins this year, more than he won all last season. He's still as unpredictable as ever — winning one day and missing a gate five seconds into a course the next day — but he's still one of my role models in ski racing, for one simple reason: he races for himself and no one else. He wrote a whole book outlining his philosophy on this, but I think it's summed up well in something I just read in his online diary:

"The best run I've ever laid down was in Val Gardena back in 2001 — I came in 6th, but to this day it stands out in my mind as nearly perfect. "

Is Bode Miller just delusional, or does he have a bad sense of when he's skiing well and when he's not? I don't think that's the case. There might be a hundred reasons he didn't win that day (bad wax choice, a strong gust of wind while he was on course), but if he's never felt better on his skis than he did that day, and he can recall that feeling and harness it for future performances, that's something significant. For 99% of athletes, if you ask them to recall their best day, it will be a day they had their best results. But not for Bode: he has that rarest of abilities, the power to separate his own feelings about his performance from the outcome associated with it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

bramble in n.y. times

As astute NTAA reader Botice has pointed out, the sports section of yesterday's New York Times featured a profile of my teammate Kevin Bramble, Paralympic downhill champion, monoski designer/builder, and lover of cannabis, alcohol, and women. You can read the story here (free registration required).

The article begins with the observation, "Kevin Bramble is a madman." This is not inaccurate. The whole profile, in fact, does a pretty excellent job of deconstructing one of the most intriguing and self-contradictory people I've ever met. This is a guy who, at times, literally seems not to care whether he lives or dies, and yet seems to survive incidents no one else could; a guy who tells a story about getting banned from a particular California town for an incident involving an underaged girl, an empty wine bottle, and a video camera, and yet has told me, passionately, about his desire to meet a woman to settle down with (he's now engaged, apparently); a guy who gets more media coverage than anyone on the team except maybe Ralph and who bragged to the Times that he has "taken [my] sport to a place it had never been" and yet is easily the most down-to-earth person on the team; a guy who never trains and has atrocious technique, yet regularly wins downhill races by full seconds; a guy who wants to be a successful businessman and yet missed an appointment to meet with me so I could try his monoski and perhaps purchase one — because he was in jail. As a result, I'm one of the three current U.S. team members who doesn't ski on his equipment, but somehow I still like the guy.

There are a few facts the article doesn't get quite right. For starters, a caption implies that the accompanying photo shows Bramble building a monoski; in fact it appears to be some kind of wakeboard. And the story says that he "left" the team in 1999 because he wanted to go powder skiing instead of racing, while my impression on that trip was that he was kicked off the team for telling a staff member to go fuck himself. And Bramble himself is wrong when he dismisses the accomplishments of Bode Miller, saying "He didn’t invent the skis. He hasn’t redefined the convention”; in fact, that is pretty much exactly what Bode did at the Junior Olympics in the late 1990s when he became the first racer to have significant success using new super-sidecut skis. But the article's only egregious error is one of omission: it doesn't mention Bramble's significant "lifestyle-related" health problems, which (combined with his distaste for training) have kept him from attending any team training camps or competitions since the Paralympics. Given that there are no downhills scheduled on the disabeld race circuit this year, I'll be surprised if we see him show up to a single race this year other than the X Games sit-skiercross at Aspen in January. For all intents and purposes, Kevin Bramble seems to be retired.

coincidence? OK, yeah, probably.

Who knows, maybe the art director of Jay-Z's 2006 Kingdom Come was a fan of Warren Zevon's 1978 Excitable Boy. (Or maybe Hova himself is? Now that would be odd.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


USSA got around to putting out a press release about Friday's GS in Breckenridge. Our head coach Ray had some nice things to say about me, and they put a very unflattering photo of me at the top. I like these better, althought I'm still making the same weird constipated face in the action shot. You can see and download these photos and others here.
From the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 12 — At least 56 people, most of them laborers looking for work, were killed today when a pickup truck packed with explosives was detonated in a crowded square in the city’s center this morning, Iraqi officials and witnesses said. At least 220 more were wounded.
American military officials have described the battle for control of Baghdad as a steady stream of individual killings of Sunnis carried out by Shiite death squads, punctuated by bombings and larger attacks carried out by Sunni insurgents or Al Qaeda members against Shiites
The speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mahmud Mashhadani, a Sunni, also denounced the attack, saying it was the work of “outlaws and those without a religion.”

Riiiiiight. This sure sounds like the work of the Iraqi Militant Atheists' Brigade. We just need to teach the bombers to be more passionate Muslims and this will all be solved.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Wikipedia has a category for almost everything. They should have a category for "People whose names and biographies sound like they should be fictitious, but aren't." Then they could include 47-year-old Mexican ski racer Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who raced in the World Cup super combi race held yesterday in Reiteralm, Austria, placing last — about 24 seconds behind winner Ivica Kostelic and 16 seconds behind the second-to-last-place finisher.

Free U.S. Ski Team pin to the first reader who posts here with the correct pronunciation of the name Hohenlohe. (And I don't know the answer, so you better also convince me you're right.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

sometimes you win by not losing

I managed a win in today's GS, even though I skied better yesterday. A mistake in the first run left me in third place, two seconds behind Tyler and one behind Nick after CDY and Gerald both crashed. My second run was solid but I didn't think it'd be enough to move me up to first or second. I didn't count on both of my remaining teammates crashing, giving me my second career Nor-Am win.

Here are some links to a press release and photos from yesterday's slalom. Both of those sites should have updates for today's race pretty soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

close, but no cigarillo

First race of the young season today in Breckenridge, Colo. We raced slalom first and I've been feeling pretty positive about my slalom these days, so I felt a lot of pressure from myself to perform well. On the first run I totally did, winning the run by about a second. I didn't make any real mistakes, but I didn't feel outstanding either so it was a nice result to beat some of my perennial rivals like Tyler and CDY.

I'd only been in that position after the first run once or twice before, and it's tough. It's way too easy to start picturing myself on the podium when the race is only halfway over. I had to keep refocusing myself over and over again as I waited a couple hours for my second run. Sixteen male monoskiers had finished the first run, which meant that that after the top fifteen were reversed to determine the second-run start order I'd be starting second-to-last — way too much time to sit at the top and think about how I could win, how I could crash, and that I really had to pee. When I finally pushed out of the gate I skied just as well as I had in the first run until I got to the course's only flush. I bobbled coming out of it, and while I recovered almost immediately, I had lost a little bit of momentum. The rest of the run was smooth, but when I crossed the line I knew I had given too much away. Sure enough, Tyler beat me by 0.4 seconds or so.

Despite that, I certainly learned something today about being in the lead, and I was stoked about my skiing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

USSA press release

Disabled Alpine Tunes Up at Keystone Team Set for Hartford Ski Spectacular

KEYSTONE, Colo. (Dec. 4.) - The U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team capitalized on the recent training agreement with Keystone Resort, scoring five days of unparalleled training on the U.S. Ski Team's exclusive Starfire training run on North Peak.

"It was the best training we've had in a long time," said Coach Ben Roberts. "It was great for us to be on a steep, challenging hill with hard snow. We are expecting these conditions at our Aspen World Cups (Jan. 17-21) so it was great preparation for those races. Everything the Alpine Team has been saying about how great the training is at Keystone was is true."

It was the third and final on-snow training for the Team before the competition season opens Dec. 7 with the 19th Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular at Breckenridge, CO."The opportunity for us as members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team to train on the same hill as the U.S. Alpine Teams was invaluable," said 15-year veteran Chris Devlin-Young (sit-ski; Campton, NH). "We had very hard snow and steep terrain, just like at our World Cups. We almost never see conditions like this during training, only at our races."Devlin-Young was joined by George Sansonetis (standup; Fraser, CO), Ralph Green (standup; Brooklyn, NY), Hannah Pennington (standup; Denver, CO), Sandy Dukat (standup; Chicago, IL), Carl Burnett (sit-ski; Cape Elizabeth, ME), Brad Washburn (standup; Highlands Ranch, CO) and Gerald Hayden (sit-ski; Fresno, CA). Also on board for the week were development athletes Ian Jansing (Granby, CO) and Ricci Kilgore (Reno, NV) of the Winter Park National Sports Center plus their coaches Hiro Taniguchi and Erik Petersen along with volunteer coach Matt Weiler from Aspen's Team Summit.

"The training was incredible," added Coach Kurt Smitz. "It was really nice to catch up with John McBride (combined coach for the men's Alpine Team) and the other alpine coaches who were on the hill with us and at the NorAm. Our athletes are really stepping up in preparation for our first races."

To continue that preparation, the team now heads to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, to wrap up their series of physical testing sessions before opening the season at Breckenridge.

19th Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular Schedule:
Dec. 7 - Slalom
Dec. 8 - Giant Slalom
Dec. 9 - Corporate Challenge