It has been a very long time since the US have had skiers that can win a world cup, Olympics or a world championships. Today we have several skiers who have proven they can be competitive and contend for the win every weekend. We have not won a race yet, but it is close and it can happen any weekend. Not long ago, we were excited when an athlete scored world cup points. That has changed. We are of course happy when we score points, but the goal is to be on the podium.
Per Elofson, Kristen Skjeldal, Anders Aukland, Renee Sommerfelt, Tobias Angerer, Matias Fredrikson, Jorgen Brink, Andrus Verpaluu, Martin Koukal and every other “famous” racer has one thing in common, they have all been beaten this season by Americans. The most important thing is that our athletes know that they can be on the podium and that is what they are fighting for in every race. Not only do we think this is possible, but so does the rest of the ski world. We have gotten recognition from the other coaches and athletes around the world. When the Norwegians, Swedes, Italians and Germans are giving splits, they are comparing themselves to our American athletes. When the races are over the same athletes and coaches come to our cabin to congratulate us with our results. The media and the ski world is taking it for granted that some time very soon we are going to have several people contend for the win in every race. People in the streets of Europe know our athletes by name and by results. We have very quickly become household names on the lips of all ski-interested people all over Europe.
We have achieved these results by being patient, and by developing an American system that works for us. We still have a long way to go before we are perfect, but we have gotten a very fine start. Today’s athletes are the product of numerous people’s dedication and hard work. We thank all of you and challenge all of you to keep up the hard work and keep producing great athletes who can be competitive on the world arena.
There are several areas that we as Americans need to address in the near future to stay competitive. Cross country skiing on the international level is very competitive. Every second lost is a place lost. In order to be competitive on this level we therefore need to do everything right. Not only do we need to do things right with the older athletes, but from the start of a young skier’s career. We need to move away from having cross country skiing being a recreational sport for all the athletes that could not make it on any other sport. High school and club coaches must create competitive and professional programs that facilitate the recruitment and development of athletes. We can however not forget the masses. A solid volume of good skiers is essential for growth. We have done well on the volume side of things, but need to step it up on the number of quality skiers we produce every year.
It is also important that every athlete takes responsibility for their own training and development. It is not acceptable to leave this up to a coach. The coach is there to educate and guide, but not to fully control the athlete’s life and training. You have to want it. Without that burning desire to explore your potential you are never going to become good, no matter what coach or what equipment you have. Athletes: give yourself a chance to succeed! This means that you have to do everything within your control to become a better person and athlete. We are not going to give you a detailed list of what that is as it is very different from person to person. It is however clear that in order to become good you have to prepare right in a plethora of aspects.
1. You have to train well. This does however not mean that you are going to kill yourself, rather train what is right for you, your situation and your body. Any fool can over-train, but only a conscious and confident athlete can train just enough. Work with a coach to find out what is right for you. Keep in mind that you have to be dedicated to training to perform well, but a little too much training is a lot worse than a little too little. When in doubt take a day off. Do not be a slave to your program; let your program be the guide, and your body the boss.
2. It is imperative to live a lifestyle that allows you to train and perform right. In order to train well year round you have to give your body a chance. This means that you have to take care of yourself. Your body needs good food, lots of fluid, and plenty of sleep and rest. Your life must reflect your training and vice versa. If you are having exams at school your training must be reduced, and if you are training hard you cannot stay up late. Not a complicated idea, but if you want to become a great athlete you must be great at balancing your life.
3. Admit to yourself and others around you that you are giving it your all. Being serious and dedicated is not a disease, rather a sign of strength and character. The US Ski Team athletes have developed an athlete contract. It says: “We create our legacy and ourselves through our actions today, tomorrow and everyday. We accept and embrace this opportunity to succeed and admit to the fact that we are giving this everything we have both as individuals and as a team, without excuse.” (Team Today) Are you up for the challenge?
4. Have fun! Skiing is a fun sport with lots of great people involved in it. To become good at anything you have to enjoy what you are doing. Train with your friends, live a normal lifestyle, go to the movies, have a boy/girl friend. Skiing is not for abnormal people, it is for normal people who love to ski and see how far they can develop their potential.
Coaches and administrators around the US also have some challenges to overcome. Sometimes it seems like we have several island of “special interests” around the American ski country. One thing is for sure if we are going to succeed we all have to pull in the same direction. This means that we have to be committed to the development of athletes and the sport. Sometimes we are going to disagree on what this means, but open and timely communication can solve most issues before they become issues. This means discussing and dealing with the issue not the person. We are all in this because we want to give our athletes the experience of a lifetime, let’s make sure our grown up egos do not get in the way of that.
There are several challenges that US Skiing and American skiers have to overcome that several European athletes do not. Most of these issues we cannot change, but some we have control over. As of right now the US Ski team does not have a lot of resources to spend on cross country skiing. Norway has about 10 times more, Sweden 4 times more, Switzerland 3 times more and the list goes on. This means that we are going to be understaffed and not be able to do all the things that we should do. The money we have today is barely enough to allow the team to compete in world cups. Everyone always says that we do not have money because the alpine team runs away with it all. This is a convenient solution, but far from the truth. We have been living on alpine money for a long time now. There are no sponsors to the US Ski Team that have a cross country interest, there is only one person who has given more than $1000 in donation to the team.
The US is one of 2 countries in the world that does not offer governmental support to their athletes (the team is not governmentally supported either); we are therefore in need of private donors and sponsors.
We are also at loss because we do not have a media channel that covers cross country skiing well. As cross country enthusiast we can change this. We need to sell this sport to ourselves first and then to the rest of the US. Every world cup race can be found on the internet. Download the races, find a big screen TV and organize local club or high school “race nights”. Do it every weekend after every race. Organize a local and national fan club for the US Ski Team Athletes. We need your support at the races. Get friends together, buy some big American flags and come to our races.
We have our task cut out for ourselves. There are going to be some ups and some downs, but our goals are shared and so is our success. We have finally gotten back to where we should be on the international level. The road has been windy and hard, but we have made it because that was the only option. Lets all pull together to ensure that we stay competitive internationally for years to come. We all want to see American women and men succeed, so take a moment to appreciate what you have done and then we hope that you will get right back at it again. Thanks for all the help and thanks for giving it all to ensure American success.