It’s late May. Athletes are a month into official training for the 2019/2020 season. Here’s some recent news of note from the domestic and international nordic ski world.
German cyclist confesses to doping following Seefeld sting
The police action in Seefeld, Austria, at the time of the 2019 World Championships that led to the arrest of several athletes and this remarkable and candid interview with Estonian skier Karel Tammjärv has led to another athlete leaving their sport. Former German pro cyclist Danilo Hondo was removed from his position as a national team coach with the Swiss Cycling Federation, after allegedly being named by German doctor Mark Schmidt as one of Schmidt’s doping clients during a custodial interrogation by Austrian police, Cycling News reported earlier this month. The article reports that Hondo paid Schmidt 30,000 Euros a year for his services. Hondo initially denied his involvement with Schmidt, but later confessed in an interview with German broadcaster ARD, Cycling News reports. He was dismissed from his coaching position soon after.
Maddie Phaneuf and mental health among endurance athletes
In a recent blog post, American biathlete Maddie Phaneuf writes candidly and publicly about her struggles with mental health after an untimely illness left her unable to race at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“It took me nearly a year to figure out I was dealing with something much bigger and harder for me to handle on my own,” Phaneuf writes, “and that I needed to seek professional help from a therapist. Little did I know that I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my experience at the Olympics. It’s hard for me to even write that because I’m afraid people will doubt it’s legitimacy. When we learn about PTSD we usually tie it with war veterans, so it’s not common for people to associate PTSD with athletes.”
Phaneuf nonetheless sets forth many common symptoms of PTSD, and explains how her experience at the Olympics left her exhibiting nearly all of them.
Phaneuf concludes, “I hope this post helps break the stigma of mental illnesses within the athletic community, and opens peoples eyes in tackling that hardest step: asking for help.”
(Canadian skier Maks Zechel sounded similar notes in a piece for FasterSkier written in January 2018, writing, “This past April, I decided to face my mental health issues that I had always known existed, but never understood or recognized for what they were. What an awkward thing to talk about, mental health, but it shouldn’t be. Our minds have to be taken care of with the same attention that we give our bodies through training and recovery. It doesn’t matter what it is that makes you begin to acknowledge your difficulties, but it has to be done; it is grossly underestimated just how permanent unchecked mental health issues can be. I didn’t acknowledge my health issues because I cared about my health, but I did care that it was starting to affect the way I raced, and although not the most important reason, it was enough to motivate me to work on my mental ‘fitness.’” Zechel added, “Not everyone wants to talk about their mental health issues, but many need to.”)
Jessie Diggins hosts “Meet the D-Team”
All three levels of the U.S. national team – the A-Team, B-Team, and D-Team – recently convened in Bend, Oregon, for an on-snow spring camp. This gave the athletes the chance to rack up the kilometers skiing in the morning, and the miles running or mountain biking in the afternoon. It also gave Jessie Diggins the chance to work on her whimsical interview skills. In a series of Instagram video posts, Diggins checks in with the entire D-Team save Kendall Kramer. For more on Johnny Hagenbuch’s favorite kind of dinosaur, Novie McCabe’s favorite flavor of gum, Ben Ogden’s lifetime cumulative skateboards built, and other important news of the day, check out Diggins’s Instagram page. Part I is here, Part II here, and Part III here.
Kendall Kramer collects ninth and tenth state high school championships
The only D-Team skier not present in Bend was Kramer, whose junior year at Fairbanks’s West Valley High School ended during the camp. By staying home Kramer was able to add to her collection of Alaska state high school championships, when she won both the 1,600 and 3,200 at last weekend’s state track and field championships at Machetanz Field in Palmer, Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Kramer clocked 4:56.15 to take the metric mile and 10:27.18 to win the longer race, in both cases taking the win over Anchorage skier Ava Earl.
Kramer’s ten (and counting; she still has her senior year ahead of her) Alaska high school individual championships include the 2018 and 2019 Skimeister award for lowest combined time at the cross-country skiing state meet, the 2017 and 2018 state cross-country running titles, and the 1,600/3,200 double at all of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 state track and field championships. On the track, Kramer has lowered her time in the 1,600 from 5:14.80 to 4:56.15 since 2017, and from 11:04.47 down to 10:27.18 for the 3,200.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard awards
Earlier this month, U.S. Ski & Snowboard named its athletes and coaches of the year, with official awards presented at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Congress in Park City on May 16. Awards for nordic and nordic combined skiers and coaches were as follows, as quoted from a USSA press release:
- Athletes of the year, nordic: Junior Worlds Men’s Relay Team: “In a storybook ending to a very successful Junior World Championships, the men’s 4x10k [sic] relay team took gold – the first ever gold won by the USA at the FIS Junior World Cross Country Ski Championships. Three of the four athletes had set the stage a year earlier winning silver.” The team was Johnny Hagenbuch (Ketchum, Idaho/SVSEF), Luke Jager (Anchorage/APU), Ben Ogden (Landgrove, Vt./SMS), and Gus Schumacher (Anchorage/Alaska Winter Stars).
- Athlete of the year, Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined: Tara Geraghty-Moats: “Nordic combined skier Tara Geraghty-Moats (W. Fairlee, Vt.) played a vital role in the rapidly-growing women’s nordic combined international field, winning 10 Continental Cups and taking the season title in a year where the international field more than doubled. Geraghty-Moats also took the U.S. title and landed a berth as a special ski jumper on the U.S World Championship Team. As an athlete advocate, she served an important pioneering role with women’s nordic combined which will join the World Championships in 2021.”
- International coach of the year, nordic: Jan Buron, Alaska Winter Stars: “A veteran club coach, Jan Buron of the Alaska Winter Stars program has developed many top athletes. This past season his work with junior skier Gus Schumacher, whom he has coached for the athlete’s entire career, led to the USA winning gold in the men’s relay at the Junior World Championships.”
- International coach of the year, ski jumping/nordic combined: Jan Druzina, Junior/Continental Cup Ski Jumping Coach: “Jan Druzina came to USA Nordic as a Junior Team and Continental Cup coach for men’s ski jumping a year ago. Since then, he has visited every club to speak with coaches and parents, working together to build a strong junior program. The result was a definitive step up this year with Andrew Urlaub and Patrick Gasienica qualifying for their first World Championships and Urlaub taking a top-30 at Junior Worlds plus three top-30 Continental Cups.”
- Domestic coach of the year, nordic: Alasdair Tutt, Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks: “Kendall Kramer, coached by Alasdair Tutt, was 4th in the 15km mass start classic in her first time at Junior World Ski Championships. Kendall will also represent USA at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games.”
Gavin Kentch is a lifelong Alaskan. He skis with the Alaska Pacific University Masters team in Anchorage, plays with his two adorable daughters, and occasionally works as a solo attorney. He has a cat named Marit. He was probably on snow this year before you were.