From Athlete to Technical Delegate: A Q & A with Kelsey Phinney

Rachel PerkinsMarch 18, 2022

When reaching out to Sun Valley’s Annie Pokorny to learn more about her decision to become a technical delegate and her experience so far, it was also on the radar that Pokorny’s friend and former teammate Kelsey Phinney was also engaged in the process. As it turned out, Pokorny had been a leading influence in Phinney’s decision to become a TD herself. 

Like Pokorny, Phinney is a 2016 graduate of Middlebury College, before continuing with her ski career, first with the SVSEF Gold Team and then the SMS T2 team until 2020. The 2019-2019 season was perhaps her peak year from a performance perspective; spending ample time in Europe racing World Cups, Phinney popped a top-20 during a skate sprint in Lahti, after having taken third at U.S. Nationals a month prior, behind Julia Kern and Hannah Halvorsen. At the end of the season, a crash during Spring Series left Phinney with a torn labrum in her shoulder, for which she underwent surgery later that year and rehabbed, before eventually stepping away from professional skiing. 

Phinney is currently in her final semester of graduate school where she’d pursuing a Master’s Degree in Health Systems, Management, and Policy through the Colorado School of Public Health. She now lives in her hometown of Boulder, CO with her partner, fellow retired SMS T2 skier Kyle Bratrud

Kelsey Phinney and friend Annie Pokorny snap a picture at a 2019 SuperTour in Sun Valley, where Pokorny was working as a technical delegate and Phinney was assisting SMS T2 coach Pat O’Brien with waxing while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. (Courtesy photo)

FasterSkier (FS): When did you begin the process of becoming certified as a TD? What was your experience like with the certification process? Were you able to “fast-track” given your experience as an athlete and has your experience as a high level racer been an asset?

Kelsey Phinney (KP): I began the process of becoming a TD this past fall after a conversation with Annie Pokorny about ways to stay involved with the sport. My experience as a former racer has certainly been an asset. While I have learned much more about the specific rules than I knew when I was racing, I hope my ability to bring a racer’s perspective to decisions – like where to start and end turning zones in a classic race –  helps make races safer and more fair.

FS: You mentioned Annie helped get you involved. Can you say more about what those conversations were like? What/who were some of the other factors/people that motivated you to become a TD? 

KP: The primary reason I looked into becoming a TD was to give back to the sport within my current time constraints as a full-time graduate student. There is also a shortage of TDs in Colorado, which motivated me to follow through with the training and certification process following my conversation with Annie. 

Since I’m currently living in Boulder, the races hosted in Colorado are all within driving distance for me. This year, I was the assistant TD at a junior race in Aspen the weekend after my fall semester wrapped up, as well as at a college race in Steamboat a couple of weeks ago.

FS: There is an overall need for TDs in the U.S., and while there are some noteworthy female TDs who have or will be jury members at the World Cup, World Championship, and Olympic level, there are few women in the role domestically. We ran an article about the need for TDs in 2017 and at the time, there were only 10 women listed in the U.S. Is this something that you considered prior to becoming a TD? 

KP: To be honest, I didn’t think much about the lack of female representation of officials when I decided to work towards becoming a TD, but I do think representation matters and it is important to have diverse voices and perspectives included in the decision-making process. I’m happy to contribute to increased representation of women among the officials domestically. I think my racing experience and age are other important qualities I bring to the table.

Kelsey Phinney and Al Pokorny (father of Annie) work as technical delegates at the RMISA Regionals race in Steamboat Springs, CO. (Courtesy photo)

Rachel Perkins

Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646

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