For some people, being stuck in a quarterfinal heat at the Olympics with Emil Joensson (SWE) would be intimidating. Not for Simi Hamilton.
“Those days are over,” he said afterwards.
The young American sprinter provided a tantalizing glimpse of the future in the sprint yesterday, striding strongly and confidently in the lead of his quarterfinal up the course’s final climb—ahead of Joensson and other World Cup veterans like Kalle Lassila (FIN) and Peeter Kummel (EST)—before being out-double poled in the home stretch.
And he wasn’t thrilled about it—in fact, at the finish, he looked crestfallen not to be moving on. He put on a satisfied air with reporters afterwards, but you could tell that the guy was hungry for more.
“I…felt like I was skiing both climbs as good, if not better, than what is the best sprinter in the world right now, so I was super-psyched about that,” said Hamilton. “It just came down to the double pole, and you know, it’s something that I’m definitely still working on.”
“In the next four years, I’ll always remember that double pole finish as important, and keep getting stronger,” he said.
Hamilton was racing on a pair of Kris Freeman’s boards—the latter has a “pretty darn good crop of skis—he was nice enough to let me go on a pair of his.”
In Monday’s skate race, he was also sporting some new boots—his sponsor, Alpina, set him up with a new pair after he was spotted racing with duct tape on his old ones at U.S. Nationals.
Hamilton said he didn’t know if he’d be racing in the team sprint next week, but that he’ll be ready if called on. Regardless, he said that he has relished the opportunity granted to him after a last-minute selection to the 2010 Olympic team—and he is not going to settle for the quarterfinals next time.
“I think I’ve earned the spot to be here, and I think everyone in the U.S. community knows that by now,” he said. “It’s an awesome experience, just keep getting these races under my belt. Hopefully win a medal in Sochi in four years, and maybe ski really well at World Championships in Oslo…hit the World Cup circuit with a little momentum. A long and hopefully prosperous ski career ahead.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.