JuniorsRacingGoodbye, Liberec: The Next Generation of North Americans Reflect on Worlds Experience

Brainspiral BrainspiralJanuary 29, 2013
American and Canadian cheer squads get ready to root for teammates in the skiathlon on Saturday at U23 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Photo: Liberec2013.
American and Canadian cheer squads get ready to root for teammates in the skiathlon on Saturday at U23 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Photo: Liberec2013.

After a week of back-to-back, high-stakes racing, the 2013 Junior and U23 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic are finished and teams have all scattered back home to get ready for the next race on the schedule. For many athletes on the U.S. and Canadian teams the Liberec races represented some of the biggest competition they’d ever been a part of, and that first taste of international experience — even the second or third — was an eye-opener for young skiers with big ambitions.

The North Americans had a lot to say about Liberec, renewed motivations and their takeaways from the experience that didn’t make our original race reports. Some leftover notes from throughout the week:

 

Impressions of the Liberec scene — the hotel, the food, the venue, etc:

“The race venue was quite exciting, and the skiers are all fast here! There were TV crews galore filming us warming up and racing which was exciting and we got to watch ourselves on TV inside of the athlete tent. Everyone here in the Czech is awesome, the team is awesome, and the coaches are wonderful. All in all I am stoked to be here, and is a wonderful experience!” — Anika Miller (USA)

 

“Czech fans were everywhere with drums and flags and bells. It was incredible to see so much passion for a sport that is not so popular in the states.” — Kyle Bratrud (USA)

 

“There were a lot of spectators and coaches on the first and last hill. Lots of different languages and noise makers — sometimes I think the US team should learn Navajo so that we, too, can speak code.” — Annie Pokorny (USA)

 

“The Czech version of Vegas that is the Hotel Babylon isn’t exactly representative of Liberec. A couple blocks from here is this amazing old building that is their town hall which is surrounded by a nice city square, coffee shops and other old buildings. The surrounding mountain towns of Liberec offer up some great skiing too! It’s so popular here, it was really neat to ski around so many people out enjoying the sport like it was hockey.” — Heidi Widmer (CAN)

 

“With everyone coming from different parts of the country, it brings a motivational atmosphere to the team. … Most of the athletes competing at World Juniors are staying in the same hotel, so it is exciting to be able to talk to people from other countries.

“The people in Liberec are very nice, the race trails were a lot of fun, the atmosphere was great, and our hotel was by far the biggest hotel I have ever seen!” — Maya MacIsaac-Jones (CAN)

 

“The hotel we’re at feels like the Disneyland of Liberec. The basemenet has a bunch of theme park-type things. There’s an aqua-park and bowling and all bunches of different activieies. The hotel in Turkey [last year] was ideal; the food situation was nice. The food here isn’t anything special, its pretty bland actually, and I think Skyler might have gotten food poisoning. Not a great food situation.” — Erik Bjornsen (USA)

 

“The Czech Republic has been pretty unique so far. The people have been super helpful getting lost skiers to find their hotels, picking up lost skiers and helping sick athletes. Liberec itself is a mix of old and new. There’s new powerplants, McDonalds, freeways and shopping malls, but it’s all draped over a much older city.

“One of the best experiences I’ve had in Liberec so far was skiing at Jizerska, the main ski site in the area. It’s free for anyone to ski there, there’s amazing trails and thousands of people using them every day!” — Colin Abbott (CAN)

 

“Czech is very interesting. The people seem to be very excited to have us and entertained by their guests (especially us Americans). The food was very odd in the beginning. Lots of potatoes, bread, pasta, and strange colored meats. Recently they had some salad and other veggies out that we were ecstatic about. If we are lucky we get some oranges thrown in there! But, it’s been fun and interesting! All in all I am just very excited to be here and having this great experience.” — Sloan Storey (USA)

 

“I’ve been in Liberec since the World Cup. The pictures from Ramsau were a little tough to see because Liberec definitely isn’t anything spectacular as far as scenery goes. It’s generally pretty gray and I wouldn’t say it’s beautiful but it’s getting the job done. We’re staying in a massive (and very weird) hotel, but all the nations fit here so it’s fun to see everyone and I’d imagine the organizers have been working their butts off to make enough snow and keep everything running smoothly so no complaints there! That said, I think this will make some other parts of Europe seem pretty amazing in comparison!” — Sophie Caldwell (USA)

 

“My favorite part of the trip so far has been the 14 hour drive we had from Ramsau, Austria, to Liberec, Czech Republic. Originally, the road trip was suppose to last six and a half hours but a HUGE snowstorm plus some wrong google maps directions (in Czech) made the ride just a little longer. Nevertheless, we had such a great time singing, rapping, dancing, playing games and getting to know the super awesome Canadians on our team. Honestly, it was a lot of fun.” — Frédérique Vézina (CAN)

 

“The Czech is very different from anywhere I’ve ever been, especially the hotel we are staying in. The hotel is huge and all the teams are here, but there is like a water park and laser tag and a bowling alley and basically a whole little town on the basement level (tattoo parlor and wedding store included) so that’s definitely new. But Liberec itself is like any other big city, so it’s kind of funny having ski races here (especially after spending a week in Austria) but it’s a new a experience so thats always fun!” — Annie Hart (USA)

 

“It’s a bit silly, but I guess the coolest thing from this week was when I walked by the glass case/cage inside our hotel and the two Burmese pythons were out in full view and flicking their tongues. They’re probably as big around as my upper arm. I was very excited — I like snakes, though I’m happy enough that these are safely within a glass case!” — Caitlin Patterson (USA)

 

“What’s my favourite part of the trip so far? Yikes, that’s a hard one. There’s been so much to do and so much to take in that I’m not sure if I’ve got a favourite. I guess highlights have been the fireworks at the opening ceremony (I like fireworks), the classic striding in the classic leg of the pursuit today, and just hangin’ out with the team.” — Zeke Williams (CAN)

 

On learning from competitors and teammates alike:

“I am happy of my week overall. This worlds championship only makes me want to train harder, go faster and surprise those Russians next year!” — Frédérique Vézina (CAN)

 

“I was just fascinated with how smooth many of the Russians and Swedes were with their technique and how powerful they are.” — Sloan Storey

 

“All of these races are so fun just because it is so exciting to be racing with people from all over the world! It is especially cool to just be here training, racing, and living with people from 35 countries, and being able to meet so many fast skiers!” — Corey Stock (USA)

 

“I found that even though it was my first international race I was not getting that nervous because I didn’t know anyone that I was racing against. I did find it a little hard to focus on my own race with all the excitement going on around me, which is something I don’t usually have a problem with in Canada.” — Scott Hill (CAN)

 

“I think watching Sophie in her quarterfinal on the sprint day was really cool, because I was just like, ‘Hey, that’s my best friend out there and she looks like a rockstar.’ It gave me some hope that maybe someday I can do that too! The mass start today was also pretty sweet, it’s just not everyday that something like that occurs!” — Annie Hart (USA)

 

“The toughest thing this week was realizing the disconnect between racing in North America and racing internationally. I still got some ground to make up.” — Zeke Williams (CAN)

 

“The first year I went to World Juniors I looked at those top U23s as role models, and I guess that’s kinda the position I’m in. I feel like it’s susprisng, I’m friends with a lot of those guys. It’s sweet to see them do so well; Ben Saxton is really throwing down.” — Erik Bjornsen

 

“I know I’m taking a picture of that skiathlon podium to put up in my room, because those three Russians are all I need to get fired up for training.” — Ben Saxton (USA)

 

And some thank-yous:

“Thanks to the wax techs who have been working really hard on our skis, and to the coaches who’ve kept us all in line. Team USA has a tight game over here, so it’s really fun to be a part of. Thanks to the NNF for their support of the trip, helping us to live the dream! And it’s fun to know how many people are rooting for us back home, the support has been awesome!” — Heather Mooney (USA)

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