A lot has happened since my last post. First off, I traveled to Bankso, Bulgaria to compete in two Europa Cup SL races. The U.S. EC Team jumped on a flight with every other competitor in the race, got on buses in Sofia, Bulgaria and traveled to Bansko as a group. This is something that rarely happens in our sport. Bankso had a great atmosphere and a killer mountain. The snow was perfect and the event they put on was awesome. The went above and beyond, making these races feel like a World Cup race. We had a few good results with Will Brandenburg getting 2nd place in the second race and myself coming in 8th that same day. It's not often that Americans podium at a EC, a great day for Will!
From there, we traveled back to Austria and got to Kitzbuhel very late for the World Cup SL race the following day. Tim Kelly, Will Brandenburg and I race the following day along with U.S. skiers Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Jimmy Cochran. This would be my second World Cup ever at a difficult venue. The race proved to be tough and many people had issues dealing with the terrain and snow conditions. Luckily, I was able to have a solid run with no big mistakes and qualify for my first second run ever! It was an amazing feeling to make a second run, especially at a place like Kitzbuhel. Unfortunately, my second run didn't fare so well, I straddled a gate part way down the hill and hiked, finishing too far out to receive my first world cup points. Ted Ligety also struggled, missing a gate and also hiking.
I was bummed about hiking in Kitzbuhel but I had a shot at redemption at the craziest, loudest, most popular race on the world cup circuit, Schladming night SL! I had dreamed about racing here ever since it got started in 1997, mainly because it was a night race. That helped turn this race into the most watched race on the circuit, bringing in more than 50,000 people on the hill in one evening. The snow is amazing and the hill is a challenging as any other. Moderate out of the start with a left foot fall away, then a big swing in the trail left over onto the pitch. The pitch is steep and icy with a small fall away on the right side. Not much terrain until you get towards the bottom of the hill where it flattens out then rolls over again to the finish. You get to the finish and look up the hill to see tens of thousand of people, it is truly amazing. The U.S. had a great day going after the first run getting all 4 starting racers into the top 30, qualifying fro the second run. A few mistakes and conservative skiing kept everyone in to the finish but set us at the back of the results. Ted Ligety ended up 19th, Jimmy Cochran 20th, I got 24th and Bode Miller finished 26th. It was a great day for me despite some big mistakes, I was able to secure my first world cup points ever!! In addition to that, I found out after the race that I was selected to represent the United States in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in SL! This is the pinnacle of our sport and I am honored the be able to represent my country. My good friends and teammates Tommy Ford and Will Brandenburg will also be representing our country but in different events along with a stellar field of U.S. athletes.
Now, I am heading to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia for two World Cup races this weekend before I head home to rest. The rest of the U.S. tech team will be here racing the final men's World Cups before the Olympic Games.