On the Fly: Change is in the air
Athletes are intrinsically driven by progress, and the U.S. Ski team's unprecedented success at the Vancouver Olympic Games created a firestorm that has the Center of Excellence gym teeming with athletes preparing to be the next Hannah, Billy, Lindsey or Bode. With a new quadrennial (four year block before an Olympic Games) also came change. A new start leading towards Sochi has provided the freedom for coaches to rethink plans and has given athletes the opportunity to learn new tricks and experiment with integrating innovative training methods.
For the Freestyle team, the first big change of the summer came with Todd Schirman being hired as the new freestyle program director. Schirman, and freestyle team manager Cheryl Pearson have been hard at work all summer on various projects with the goal of elevating our team to a new level, bringing the disciplines of freestyle together and encouraging the implementation of new training tools.
One such development is the freestyle page on Dartfish TV. This new web site uses video of U.S. Ski Team athletes to digitally analyze and discuss techniques for learning the skills necessary to be the best athletes in the world. For example, in one clip, 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist, Hannah Kearney performs a near perfect back layout. The clip is shown in real time and slow motion, and then allows a viewer to move frame by frame through individual movements, highlighting the important steps for accomplishing each skill successfully. It also lists what improvements Kearney herself is working on to make the jump better, because of course; the best athletes are always striving to be even better. This is a great tool for the U.S. Team athletes as well as anyone looking to make the team in the future.
This fall I'll be spending time in the new bungee system that was recently installed above the Center of Excellence trampoline. The aid of a spotting belt and bungee cords, will allow me to perform this winter's competition jumps over and over again with minimal impact on my body, and the slower tempo of bouncing will also give me and other athletes the freedom to make changes and to maintain muscle memory until it comes time to perform the tricks on snow.
On the coaching side, U.S. Team head coach Matt Christensen has retired after 12 years with the team, and has transferred his distinctive skills to a new venue. He has followed former USSA strength and conditioning gurus, Andy Walshe and Per Lundstrom to Red Bull as their new acrobatic coach, and is successfully working with snowboarders, freeskiers and other Red Bull sponsored athletes to improve their flipping and twisting.
Matt will be missed, but in his place as the new head aerials coach is Todd Ossian, who brings with him a wealth of experience and unique expertise. Ossian was an athlete on the U.S. Team, coached the U.S. Development team and was the head coach to a dominant Australian aerials team where he guided athletes to gold and bronze medals in World Championships and the Olympic Games. He has a deep technical knowledge of the sport and brings a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to the team. I could not be more excited to work with Todd and to learn his secrets to success on the aerial hill.
The Elite aerial program in Lake Placid, NY has also seen transformation. Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Bergoust has joined the U.S. aerials team coaching staff and will partner with Dmitriy Kavanuv starting this month. I have looked to Eric for coaching and advice throughout my career and feel incredibly fortunate to have him as a part of our team. Bergoust will focus on bringing more young athletes into the aerials pipeline, while looking towards the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games. With Brian Currutt, Ryan Snow, strength coach Tschana Breslin and athletic trainer Justin Hunt to round out the coaching staff, the aerials team is looking ready for the 2010 season and beyond.
Other freestyle changes loom ahead. According to the Around the Rings web site, the IOC Program Commission met last week to discuss the inclusion of both ski halfpipe and women's ski jumping to the 2014 Sochi Games. With the requirement that new sports be approved three years before an Olympic Games, athletes in both sports are anxious to hear a decision. An official ruling is expected later this month, so expect more news on the Olympic status of these sports coming up soon. The Olympic Games is certainly ready to see both of these sports represented, and the athletes who have worked so hard deserve a chance to compete on the world's stage in Sochi.
With all these changes to the world of freestyle skiing, it is no wonder the motivation level is so high. My teammates and I have now finished our summer on the water ramps and will be on the trampolines and in the gym until the snow flies, and the mogul skiers have just returned home from a successful Switzerland trip. I know that I am fortunate for the amazing support system that I have in place and anticipate some very positive results from the freestyle team in the coming years.
Emily Cook is a veteran athlete on the U.S. Freestyle Ski team. As an aerialist she has posted numerous World Cup podiums, is a two-time Olympian and a four-time U.S. National Champion. Throughout the season, Emily will provide an inside look at the training and competition adventures of an athlete on the U.S. Ski team. Follow Emily and her teammates from the Center Of Excellence gym to China, Russia and at home for the Freestyle World Championships in Deer Valley, Utah. Please feel free to comment with questions, suggestions or various rants. www.emilycook.com