12.5.16 Starting with a Bang
Hello MYSL families!
It’s exciting to start another year of traveling and racing World Cups all around the globe!<--break--> I remember being so ready to get back on snow with my friends in MYSL when I was younger, and I’d look forward to skiing every weekend. Not much has changed…I might not be in Minnesota during the winters anymore, but I still get super excited to go skiing with my friends!
This year, I was home with my family for a few weeks at the start of November before flying to Finland to begin the World Cup season. We flew into the airport in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is the official home airport of Santa Claus! It’s pretty fun to see families going to vacation there to see Santa’s village. Then we had another bus ride and by the time we arrived in Ruka, we had been traveling for 25 hours!
Every year we begin the World Cups in Ruka, which is also called Kuusamo, and it’s very close to the Arctic Circle. It’s so far North that the sun barely rises, and sets around 1 in the afternoon! It’s very dark, but they have big lights around the village so everything is always artificially lit. We raced a classic sprint and a classic 10km race, and they were both really fun. I was really nervous for my first races of the season, but once I got to the start line and started skiing, I wasn’t nervous anymore, because I was so focused on getting up the hills as fast as I could!
Then we traveled to Lillehammer, Norway, where I had one of the best races of my career! We raced in a mini-tour, which means that we raced every morning for three days in a row. Friday we had a classic sprint, Saturday we raced in a 5km skate and Sunday was a 10km classic pursuit start race.
And on Saturday in the 5km race…I won! The course was hard but fast with big swooping downhills and lots of turns, and I thought the downhills were so fun that I got in my smallest tuck and just went for it! I raced my hardest, and really believe in myself so I was able to ski with confidence and my best technique. And after everyone had crossed the line, my time was still the fastest of the day so I got to stand on the top step of the podium! They gave me beautiful flowers, and the biggest piece of cheese I’ve ever seen (it weighed at least 10lbs!).
The best part about winning this race was knowing that if I can do it, other US skiers can, too! With training, a great team, and the right day it’s possible for so many other young skiers to follow the same path I took, and anything really IS possible!
It’s always very special to race in Norway, because that’s where Cross Country skiing was invented…by the Vikings! How cool is it to do a sport that was invented by Vikings? You might have heard of the Slumberland American Birkebeiner…or at least, your parents probably have! It’s a marathon ski race held in Hayward, Wisconsin that copies the Norwegian Birkebeiner race. The race was created to celebrate the long ski by the Birkebeiner warriors all the way back in the year 1206, when two Birkebeiner warriors had to ski baby Prince Haakon to safety over the mountains from Lillehammer to what is now Trondheim. They were called Birkebeiners because they wrapped birch bark around their legs to keep them warm, and then the name stuck! Back then, Norway was in a civil war between two groups; the Birkebeiners and the Baglers. When Prince Haakon was born, the Baglers wanted to kill him, so they had to ski him to safety and he went on to become one of the greatest Kings Norway had, and ended the civil war. So the town of Lillehammer has some pretty cool history behind it!
We started doing a “Team Tuesday” on the US Ski Team, where each week a few different people team up and do some research on the town we’re living in and then present it to the entire team! Kind of like a fun homework assignment. Our turn was Lillehammer, so we re-enacted the famous ski of the Birkebeiners and used my teammates baby as prince Haakon! It was very funny, and we learned some fun facts along the way.
Have a great start to your winter!