The State of Joe Swensson :: Ski Cross Update
Posted January 7, 2014
My season started off with a pretty rough start but it’s taken a turn in the right direction. I found myself in a bit of a hole after the first few Olympic qualifying events for the Ski Cross World Cup Tour, and it took everything I had to fight off the anxiety and keep a positive mindset.
The racing season began up in Nakiska Resort, just outside of Calgary, Alberta. With -30 Celsius conditions, it was not an ideal situation, but the course was a lot of fun and we kept it safe even in the brutal cold. I've raced at Nakiska numerous times and know the area pretty well, so I felt great entering the race. Before the heats begin (4 people at once), there is a qualification round where you run the course by yourself. The top 32, based on time, qualify for the finals. In the starting gate I felt fully confident that I'd put a fast run in there, but I ended up landing too short in several places and cased the landings. Every time you land short or too long, you lose speed. On such cold snow, every little mistake is multiplied because it takes longer to get back up to speed. I was 33rd in the run by .03 of a second. I was pretty bummed out, but I knew where I made mistakes and let it go.
The following week we moved to Val Thorens, France, where I had my 3rd place World Cup finish in the previous season. I really love the course here because it has huge jumps, a lot of cool terrain features, and is wide open so there are plenty of passing opportunities in heats. I had a great qualification run and made it safely into the finals. My first heat of the day didn't look to be too difficult, but right out of the start I got tangled up with myself and went off of a jump sideways. I lost a ton of speed, and the next thing I knew I was behind the other three guys by about 60 feet. It took everything I had to generate speed from the roller sections and keep a low trajectory off the jump lines to catch up. A third of the way down the course I caught up just as we were about to hit a huge step down jump. Right before takeoff, I felt myself getting pulled into the draft and realized that I was coming in faster than I had hit the jump in training. I tried to pre-jump and press the takeoff as much as possible but overshot the landing and hit the flat. I crashed pretty hard and...well, it was a pretty short day at the office.
The FIS Ski Cross World Cup Tour then moved on to Innichen/San Candido, Italy. This ski area is a classic stop on the tour and always builds a great course. In my first round of heats, I was up against the current world cup points leader and two other guys who have already had podiums this season. It would be a difficult heat. During the run, I went from third to second, then back to fourth, then made a pass into third, and another one into second right at the finish line. It was a crazy heat as people were passing left and right but luckily I stayed calm and didn't panic. The top two advanced to the next round. Entering my quarterfinals heat, I felt completely comfortable in the start and I was ready to keep the momentum going. Out of the start we were three wide entering the first turn, and I tried to cut in on one of the guys to get ahead but our skis tangled up. My edges caught the snow at a weird angle and I slapped down, face first. I stood up watching the other three guys take off down the course without me.
I finished the race in 12th place. It's not one of my best results, but after the first few races I feel like it is something that I can build from. My results this season are a 33rd, 32nd, 28th, and a 12th, so they are getting closer and closer to the podium. I've been able to learn from my failures in these last few races by reassessing where I am and what I need to change. Now it's time to make those changes and move on to the next race.
Joe Swensson, Killington Ski Cross Athlete