Liz Stephen has earned her stripes. For the last 11 years, the 29-year-old Vermont native has been part of the US Ski Team (USST). After veterans like Kikkan Randall, Stephen has become an anchor on the women’s team, which now carries with it expectations of top-20’s, top-10’s and podiums. At the age of 15, the Burke Mountain Academy alpine skier and runner switched to the skinny skis for good.
With her high energy and drive, she became a force on the U.S. junior cross-country ski scene. What followed were a string of results commensurate with her high turnover. In both 2013 and 2014, she was the 15th-ranked distance skier on the World Cup. A year later, that ranking was more than halved — she concluded 2015 ranked seventh in the Distance World Cup.
Then, due to possible overtraining and some shaken confidence, Stephen’s results regressed to 28th on the distance list in 2016. Still good enough for an U.S. A-team nomination, but not what she expected.
“It’s not as though you worked any less hard, generally that’s not the case, sometimes it’s the opposite,” Stephen said during the podcast interview. “You feel like you worked really hard and none of it is paying off. It’s like a two-sided sword. Your results are going down. And instead of being, ‘All right, I can do this,’ gaining confidence, it’s the opposite. Every time you are getting a result you’re not proud of, your confidence is sinking a little bit lower. And for every percent your confidence sinks, that’s at least a place on the World Cup, if not two.”
In a world-championship year, Stephen is hoping to rebound individually and in support of her teammates on a medal-winning relay team. All that doesn’t seem so far fetched. Stephen skied the third leg in last season’s 4 x 5 k in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, in which the U.S. women skied to their historic-best second place in a World Cup relay.
Time for more high-turnover Stephen — click the play arrow below to listen to the podcast. (To subscribe to the Nordic Nation podcast channel, download the iTunes app. If you have iTunes, subscribe to Nordic Nation here.)
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Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.