Nor-ams and Europe 2016/2017
Right after my November blog post, my younger brother, Andrew, had a terrible freak accident while diving into the snow, in which he broke his neck (C5 vertebrae). I received the call from my mom, telling me about the accident, after I completed my first NorAm race of the season in Panorama, BC. Although I really wanted to fly home immediately to be with Andrew and the rest of the family in the ICU in Buffalo, my parents, Andrew, and older brothers convinced me that I was far more helpful and sustaining to them if I remained in BC and continued with the race series. I returned to Buffalo on December 20th and spent the next week traveling with Andrew to Craig Hospital in Denver, CO, celebrating a wonderful Christmas with the family, and then saying goodbye and heading home and on to Vermont for my first race series of 2017.
While it has been at times extremely tough to stay focused on skiing while Andrew is facing huge challenges overcoming his quadriplegia to start walking, the family (Andrew included) decided it was best for me to try and win some races for Andrew to provide encouragement from afar. Luckily, we have a big family and my brothers and dad have been able to make intermittent visits to Denver to spend time with Andrew and help out my mom and Mary, who are Andrew’s biggest aids in this challenge. Additionally, the love and support Andrew has been shown by my huge extended family, and all our amazing friends (new and old) has been amazing for all of us.
So far this season, I’ve had three Nor-Am series and a three-week-long trip to Europe. I was able to start the season off with some strong results in Panorama and Burke Mountain in Super-G, slalom, and GS, lowering my points in all three events before heading to Europe in early January. Unfortunately, Europe was a trip of many trials (and DNFs) and I didn't have my best skiing performances. I did learn a lot, though, and I hope I'll be able to capitalize on these lessons during my next trip across the pond.
Most recently, our team had an eleven day series of races at Vail and Copper. Andrew, Peter, Mary, and my mom were able to make it up to one of my GS races at Copper. The night before they came Andrew texted me jokingly asking if I was going to "DNF again," a question not without precedent given my many DNFs. I did indeed fall the following day when they came up to watch. I was extremely disappointed. However, over the next week I won two NorAm Super-Gs, and seven days later the entire family convened in the Copper Lodge (surprising me!!!) and I was able to not only make it to the finish but also get second overall in the alpine combined!
All in all, the season so far has been a lot of big ups and big downs; so it goes. I'd also much rather be pushing the line/speed/my skiing constantly, which results in either DNFs or fast skiing, than be skiing more conservatively and often slower. That being said, consistency is something I am working very hard on. The huge benefit of consistency is being able to ski fast AND finish when it really matters in bigger races.
My latest success in the NorAms has qualified me for the 2017 World Junior Championships in Are, Sweden March 6th – 14th. As the end of the season approaches, and with World Juniors, Nor-Am Finals, and US Nationals ahead, I'm hoping that I've found some balance between pushing the line and finding the finish!
In one week I'll head to Norway to train before World Juniors. In the mean time, I've been able to spend some time with Andrew rehabbing in Denver. (see his YouTube post below) The progress he has made, and continues to make daily, is truly incredible. This is particularly obvious to me when I'm with Andrew working hard next to fellow patients who have had similar injuries, and see that he is far ahead of many of them in his progress. This may be part luck, but I strongly believe that it is also largely due to Andrew's unsurpassed determination. His optimism and tenacity are a huge inspiration to me.