Cut from US team, McJames and Duke form own team
It is part of sport that some folks don't make the team. In ski racing it can be a little more complicated. As Megan McJames and Hailey Duke have learned, in skiing it is possible to get cut without losing your international status. McJames is still ranked among the best 100 women GS racers in the world. Duke is ranked 69th best world wide in slalom. Both own guaranteed starts in next season's World Cup.
But their trend was bothersome to the US Team. Two seasons ago, before injury, McJames was among the top 50 and in 2009 she cracked the top 30. Similarly, Duke, too, was inside the top 30 during the 2009 season in slalom.
Cut-off from pursuing their dreams the two, along with University of Colorado standout Katie Hartman and junior racer Lena Andrews have formed “Independent Ski Racing,” to help raise funds and maintain the level of training required to continue their pursuit.
“After being cut from the national team this spring, Hailey Duke and I are heading a new team and are excited to be able to build and customize the ideal training environment to reach the peak of our careers next season.” says McJames. “We are fundraising together in order to cover equipment expenses and the logistical expenses associated with preparing for and following the World Cup cricuit next season and are calling it The Athlete Project.”
As the winner of the 2012 NorAm Cup GS title, McJames earned a guaranteed start in World Cup GS races next season. Duke was third in the slalom standings and also earned a guaranteed start spot.
“I felt that after working so hard to earn my own spot for the 2012-13 giant slalom World Cup season that I deserved to take advantage,” says McJames. “I believe my best turns are still to be made and was therefore motivated to build a program that provided me with the resources necessary to be able to compete with the best skiers in the world.”
“... I was able to pull myself up by my boot buckles and seek out what I needed to get my skiing back on track,” writes Duke. “In spite of these efforts I have been cut from the National Team and will receive no support from them for next season. Not many people have their own World Cup spots and are left to get there entirely on their own, which is why this is such a unique opportunity. Megan and I now have the chance to design and carryout the program as we see fit, together. ... Our goals, this season, are to race the 2012-13 World Cup season and make our way into the top 20 on our respective disciplines.”
Independent Ski Racing, affiliated with the Aspen Valley Ski Club, will be hiring it's own coach and technician and is developing it's own fitness regime. The team has a Facebook presence: https://www.facebook.com/IndependentSkiRacing and both McJames and Duke invite interested parties in contacting their individual websites: meganmcjames.wordpress.com and haileyduke.com
Megan McJames photo by Kevin Pitchard/Maui Productions