Tuesday, February 24, 2009

world championships, days 2 through 4

Here's the rundown of my races so far:

GS (Feb. 21): About the worst possible result: I fell on the fourth gate of the course and slid past the next gate, and my whole race day was over by mid-morning.

I tried to make the best of it — had some lunch and then took the gondola early back to the hotel, where I ran into Kim Joines from the Canadian team, whose day had also come to an early end. She told me about the Korean-style spa inside our hotel; I hadn't even known it existed. Sure enough, below the lobby was a pretty opulent tiled set of rooms. One was a locker room and one a sort of powder room just like you'd find in a posh American health club. The third room had showers on each side — regular Western stand-up showers on the right, and traditional Korean sit-down showers on the left, with a small wooden stool to sit on and a wooden bucket to lather up with. You have to take a shower first and take all your clothes off before proceeding to the middle of the room, where there is a big hot tub with a fountain of vertical jets in the middle. I had a nice soak and then moved to the back wall, where there were two more tubs without jets: one with even hotter water and one quite cold. (The thermometer said 19 degrees C, which works out to about 66 Fahrenheit.) (10 minutes later: I just got into a conversation with Erik Leirfallom and Marcel Kuonen about why 66 degrees feels so much colder in water than in air. The short version of the answer we came up with is "specific heat capacity.") Anyway, I took my cue from the Korean guy who came in while I was in the "warm" tub and tried plunging from the hot to the cold and back again. It was pretty exhilarating, and I went back to my room refreshed.

Feb. 22 was a day off. I did some super G training in the morning and then a few of us had lunch at the Top of the Top, the revolving restaurant at the top of the ski area.

Super combined (Feb. 23): Actually, this might have been worse than the GS. I finished the super G portion with no major mistakes, but my run was absolutely terrible. I wasn't looking for speed anywhere, didn't take any chances, and just generally skied like a wuss the whole way down. Resolved to make amends, I skied a somewhat decent slalom run and finished the race in 16th place.

Super-G: This was a lot better, despite the 20th place finish. I really went for it, skied great all the way up to a point about three quarters of the way down the course, where I misjudged the entry to a crucial turn and got so incredibly late that I barely made about four consecutive gates. I'm sure I lost two or three seconds here, but only finished five seconds out of the lead, meaning I skied well most of the way down. This was a tight race in my class, won by Shannon Dallas of Australia.

Friday, February 20, 2009

world championships, day one

We are at High1 Resort in Gangwon-do, South Korea, for the biennial alpine disabled World Championships [official site]. It's now Saturday evening, Korea time, and we've finished the first day of racing. At the awards ceremony in a few minutes, the new world champions will be crowned in slalom. They are:

Women's visually impaired: Sabine Gasteiger (AUT)
Women's standing: Lauren Woolstencroft (CAN)
Women's sitting: Stephani Victor (USA)
Men's visually impaired: Jakub Krakow (SVK)
Men's standing: Cameron Rahles-Rabula (AUS)
Men's sitting: Jürgen Egle (AUT)

My day was pretty disappointing. I never quite found my rhythm out of the start and went out of the course at the first hairpin. I had to hike to make a gate, and although I skied the rest of the course fairly well I finished too far behind to qualify for a second run. I spent the afternoon watching my teammates and competitors race. Tyler had a good second run and moved up from 16th place after a mediocre first run to finish 12th overall, but that was the best result any of the male monoskiers on our team could manage. Fortunately our team did have some good news in the first-place finish by Stephani and a close second by Alison Jones in the women's standing category — she won the first run and seemed to have the race in the bag when she broke an outrigger near during the second run and had to ski the last few gates with a floppy rigger.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

kimberley wrap-up

M and I are packing up in Kimberley, B.C. this morning and getting ready for the long, long drive to Colorado. She accompanied me up here (I flew up to Boise, then we drove from there) for some Nor-Am races, two downhills and two super G's. In a few days there are slalom and GS races in Park City, Utah but I'm skipping them — I need a little time off before we head to Korea for the World Championships on the 18th. Instead, we are taking our time getting back to my house in Winter Park, perhaps stopping in Yellowstone or Jackson Hole for a day or two.

It was a pretty enjoyable week of racing for most of us here in Kimberley. There was a big field consisting mainly of Americans from the Winter Park and Aspen programs, including four or five of us current U.S. World Cup team members. In my class in particular the competition was stiff, with five top speed skiers in attendance: my teammates Chris Devlin-Young and Tyler Walker, the UK's Sean Rose, KJ van der Klooster of the Netherlands, and me. The race hill here is quite rolling, with lots of varied terrain (made even more pronounced this year by a dearth of snow in this part of Canada), and the course was fairly fast and open. We battled it out for the top three spots every race, and in the end I won just one medal (bronze in the second downhill) but was generally pretty pleased with the way I skied. Complete results can be found here.