Flora and Brooks Mull Lonely Trip to Eastern Europe

Nathaniel HerzDecember 8, 20104

As a cross country skier, it’s tough to turn down a free trip to World Cups in Estonia, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Unless, of course, you’ve got a shot at racing at World Championships in Norway later on in the winter.

That’s the case for Alaska Pacific University’s (APU’s) Holly Brooks, the current women’s SuperTour leader. Along with her teammate Lars Flora, Brooks’s finishes at the November races in West Yellowstone earned her start spots and free room, board, and travel for the second block of World Cups in eastern Europe in January and early February—though she’s not sure she’s going to go.

“From both a training standpoint and logistical standpoint, it’s pretty complicated,” she said last week. “For the experience, I’d love to [go], but for training, I’m not quite sure yet if it’s the best thing.”

Holly Brooks racing in West Yellowstone.

Flora hasn’t made a decision yet, either. While he also said he would love to race at all three World Cups, his health is his primary concern. Flora’s sinuses—which have caused him problems in the past few seasons—can’t handle air travel on three consecutive weekends, he said.

A second hurdle for the two to overcome is a lack of support. With the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST’s) athletes flying home from Europe after the first weekend of racing, in the Czech Republic, the coaching staff is departing as well—leaving Brooks and Flora without anyone to wax their skis.

“We’re not planning to be [in Estonia], nor are we planning to be in Russia,” said John Farra, who oversees the USST in his job at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “It’s…not because we don’t want to be, but it just doesn’t make sense.”

Both athletes said that they would be interested in leaning on the Canadian squad for support, if possible, but neither was counting on it.

Brooks said that her primary focus for the year was on qualifying for World Championships, and in order to do that, “you have to come out firing really hard for U.S. Nationals,” which are in early January in Rumford, ME.

“If I do make the World Championships team, then if I go to Czech and Estonia and Russia…it’s just hard to tell, at this point, if that would be too much,” she said.

Flora, on the other hand, was excited about the two classic races in Estonia—a 15 k and a sprint—which he said suit his strengths.

If he can find a way to get support at those events, Flora said he would like to go—though he also said that he could “pull a Swenson,” referring to the exploits of former USST member Carl Swenson. In 2005, Swenson waxed his own skis at early-season World Cup races in Kuusamo, Finland, finishing a respectable 11th and 12th.

Contacted last week, Brooks wasn’t sure when she would make her decision, though she said she would like to put it off for as long as possible. Flora said Monday that he hoped to have his mind made up within the next week.

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Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • Martin Hall

    December 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Too many focuses here—go to the Worlds right side up is my advice—do well there like the Olympics and there will be more possibilities for other trips. You’re in the count down to Sochii and will be a big factor in this US ladies team—make the best and wisest decision for your international growth now!

  • Train Wreck

    December 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Shame the logistics have to work out that way.

  • mandlim

    December 10, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I am not particularly religious, but an old warrior once told me, “Any opportunity to travel is like taking dancing lessons from God.” The experience could open doors that would remain unopened otherwise. Just sayin.

    Appreciate your dilemma.

  • mandlim

    December 10, 2010 at 12:27 am

    By the way: You guys looked great at Silver Star and Sovereign last week.

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