On the Fly: U.S. Freestyle Roster Highlights Experience and a New Generation
The announcement of the 2010/2011 U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, and the early arrival of new Under Armour competition gear, has athletes and staff fired up for the season. This year's roster includes Vancouver Winter Olympic Medalists, Hannah Kearney, Bryon Wilson and Jeret "Speedy" Peterson; world champions Patrick Deneen, Nate Roberts and Ryan St.Onge; and some newer and younger additions to the team. Though compact, this year's roster is full of talent and experience; of 28 total athletes (18 mogul skiers and 10 aerialists), almost 50% are Olympians, which has Freestyle Program manager Todd Schirman optimistic for the upcoming season.
"We are very excited to see our younger athletes gain momentum and experience under the lead of our Olympians," Schirman said. "World Championships at Deer Valley from Feb. 2 through 5 is going to be an incredible event, under the lights with the largest crowd in Freestyle. We have had success at Deer Valley in the past and expect the Athletes to thrive on the support of an incredible site and home court advantage."
Deer Valley is expected to be amazing with huge crowds, music, fireworks and of course the best athletes in the world. If you haven't been to this event in the past, this is the season to join the party. As athletes, we love your support and encourage as many signs and cowbells as you can carry up the hill. Having been on the podium twice in Deer Valley, and winning my first Olympic Trial there as well, I am anticipating it being the place to find my first World Championship medal, and am working diligently each and every day to reach that goal.
With World Champs in our sights, the aerials team is preparing by centralizing all athletes in Utah for the season. The "Elite Aerial Program" athletes, originally based in Lake Placid have arrived in Park City and are eager to transfer their training from the Olympic Training Center (OTC) to the Center of Excellence (COE), and then on to snow at the Utah Olympic Park in late November. Elite Air, created by coach Dmitriy Kavunov, was designed to develop new athletes in the sport, and with the nomination of 17-year-old Ashley Caldwell to the 2010 Olympic Team (then 16-year-old and youngest in the U.S. Olympic delegation), the program proved it is a driving force on our team.
The Elite Aerial crew is hardly easing into their new COE home. With two-a day trampoline sessions and workouts these athletes can be found in the gym for most of the day, and will join the rest of the team in an acrobatic and conditioning camp starting on November 8th. The camp kicks off with physical testing and will include training on the trampoline, a few punishing and creative workouts lead by strength and conditioning coach Tschana Breslin, and diving sessions with former diving coach and current Director of Athletic Career and Education, Lauren Loberg. Loberg will also conduct media training and U.S. Team sports psychologist, Dr. Craig Manning will lead a High Performance seminar in order to help prepare the team for the coming season. By taking a holistic approach to training, the aerials team intends to prepare both body and mind for competition this season as well as for Sochi in 2014.
Watching the Elite Air athletes in the gym while I hammer out a workout on the spin bike, I am reminded of why I am there everyday. It's not only because I want to be the best in the world at what I do, but also because I love it. Working out with my teammate Ashley, laughing and experimenting with new skills is hysterical, and it keeps the hours in the gym preparing for the season fun and productive. Schirman acknowledges the benefit of having older, more experienced athletes to guide and motivate the younger athletes, but the advantage is reciprocal. I benefit tenfold from having my younger teammates around. Not only does their presence constantly remind me of why I began skiing in the first place, but also their youth and enthusiasm keeps me trying new things and pushing the envelope. I am confident that this crew will continue to push the sport and each other as the Sochi nears.
As Schirman says, "We have amazing talent and leadership in 2010 and we're looking forward to the hard training paying off this winter," much of that leadership this fall comes from the ground up.
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