While the revival of the development squad on the Nordic side of the U.S. Ski Team entails a change in the structure of the team itself, it also means a great deal of change to its nominated athletes. Last month, Patrick “Paddy” Caldwell (Dartmouth Ski Team) and Ben Saxton (SMS T2) began their first summers as U.S. Ski Team members, which began with a visit to the Center of Excellence in Park City for the USST Rookie Camp.
“Rookie Camp was conducted largely in the classroom where we learned about the USSA’s structure and goals for the next four years,” said Saxton. “It is designed to teach us how our governing body works, and the new opportunities available to use as members of the team.” Outside of the classroom, they learned how they would fit into the larger USST community.
Both Caldwell, 20, and Saxton, 21, are young compared to their teammates, where the average age is 26. However, at the camp the two felt their age as most of their alpine, freestyle and snowboarding counterparts were in their teens.
“Many of the other athletes were under 16 years old, even as young at 13!” said Saxton, “Being 21 made me feel pretty dang old.”
Due to their age and maturity, both skiers recognized the gravity of their nominations and treated the camp as an opportunity to meet the athletes from other disciplines and take advantage of the COE amenities.
“I love working out in the COE,” said Caldwell, “I am really looking forward to spending more time there this fall.” Both selected the staff and equipment at the Center as a highlight of the trip, while the games and teambuilding activities allowed them to interact with a wide range of athletes.
“My favorite activity from Rookie Camp was for sure soccer. It was really fun to get everyone from different sports mixed up and playing together,” continued Caldwell.
Saxton, a native Minnesotan who decided to pursue elite racing after only four years of competitive skiing in high school, has big long-term goals. “After my senior year in high school I decided I wanted to do everything in my power to become the best ski racer I could be, and since I’ve never really looked back.” In particular, he hopes to achieve international success as a regular on the World Cup, and help grow the sport in the U.S. through those results.
Caldwell, from Lyme, N.H., has been racing for nine years and was nominated for the team after a particularly impressive year in which he placed in the top 10 at World Junior Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. He considers his success a result of enjoyment of the sport, of doing what he loves to do. “My long term goals for skiing are simply to have as much fun as I can and get as fast as I can.”
As new representatives of the USST, both Caldwell and Saxton see their nominations as opportunities rather than endpoints. They agree that the D Team is a step toward becoming the best skiers they can, in addition to perpetuating the forward motion of U.S. skiing.
They acknowledge that while the U.S. doesn’t have the Nordic ski population of Norway or Sweden, the revival of the D Team shows that the sport is growing. Saxton is emphatically optimistic, “As a nation we’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years and that growth shows no indication of stopping. There are a myriad of talented racers popping up all over the country and it won’t be long until the whole world sees them on the international circuit.”