The view from the finish line during inspection at the Kranjska Gora GS in Slovenia.
Going For It..and Ben Gamel
This article started out as a narrative for my goals for next season. The rest should probably go in a blog, or never make it to the internet..But it's July, and I'm an American, so I couldn't help but bring baseball into the conversation.
My goal for the 2017/2018 season is to represent Alaska and the United States in the 2018 Olympics. In order qualify for the Olympics, I must be ranked in the top 4 among Americans in the World Cup GS standings. I finished last season with a 3rd place at U.S. Nationals, and slightly improved my world rank on the season from 60 to 59 in GS. During the upcoming season I will be exclusively focusing on GS, as it has been the event I've become most competitive in. I've always had ambition for World Cup success, but in every season until now -- priority to best facilitate that success has taken a back seat in favor of more "more logical goals." Committing to this approach has been motivating, and has given me a newfound peace of mind.
Across sports, pipelines are established to sift through the best athletes fit for the "big show." Abilities between each level of the pipeline are generally designed to increase incrementally, i.e. excel at one level, and be promoted to the next. No greater example of this exists than in baseball. Each major league team has no less than 7 minor league affiliate teams, often refereed to as "the farm system." Major league teams groom their best prospects by giving them ample opportunity to excel at each level before promoting them. However, no organization can stock 7 tiers of minor league teams with top prospects. They also must stock their farm system with solid players, fully aware that most will never make it the big leagues. I'd have to call my pretend second cousin, Nate Silver, (we actually are somehow distantly related) to get the numbers on the likelihood on each player making the big leagues, but I have a special appreciation for the latter. Take Ben Gamel, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, who happens to be born in born in 1992 with long red(ish) hair and beard. Ben had a few short stints in the major leagues prior to this year, but with no results to write home about. He has put up solid, although not spectacular, minor league career numbers. However, due to the myriad of injuries the Mariners have faced this season, (obviously the only thing keeping them 15.5 games behind Houston in the AL West -- and yes, if you haven't gathered it thus far, I'm a Mariners fan) Ben got the opportunity to start playing full time early on this season. Since then, he has done nothing but post a major league batting average exactly 50 (fifty!) points higher, and +.128 OPS compared to his minor league career numbers. He went from being an after thought of the Seattle Mariners, to leading the entire team in batting within a few months. To all the non-baseball fans I'm boring right now, that's really, really good. For reference, Ben Gamel's salary this season is $507,500. That sounds pretty good for a ski racer, but pales in comparison to the top three offensive players the Mariners coming into the season -- who are collectively set to pull in $48,500,000. Yes, that averages to over 16 million dollars per player.
Baseball and ski racing also share a curious dependence, and simultaneous ignorance of statistics when considering an athletes skill level. Specific statistics are often heavily weighted, both good and bad, to support a subjective opinion about an athletes skill level or potential. Generally speaking, success at lower level is used to suggest future success at a higher level. However, these assumption can get messy, and often time just don't ring true. As a ski racer, I have experienced some level of success at every level, short of the World Cup. Fortunately, I believe this is due to how I've approached and prepared for World Cups, not due to the ceiling on my skill level. I have raced several World Cups over the past few years, but almost never have known until a few days before. My World Cup starts have been sprinkled in-between other race series, often times on short-notice or short-rest. When I began racing World Cups I was starstruck by the racers around me. Over the past few years I've assimilated to their environment, but I have always felt like they were secondary to my goals in had in the multiple other circuits I was competing in full-time. As a 24-year old independent racer I've decided to go all in, and go for it. This mean I'm no no longer worrying about protecting my rankings by simultaneously skiing several other circuits on multiple continents. This decision has given me a new flavor of motivation during workouts and in planning logistics so far this summer.
Speaking of logistics, I am looking to get on snow in September, giving myself ample time to workout this summer, and get skiing fast before race season begins. Most pressing, I'm starting my fundraising efforts for next season. Aligning with my decision to really go for it this season, I'm also actively looking for a coach and/or serviceman extraordinaire to help support me during the season. I will be working with my part-time coach from last season whenever possible, but unfortunately, he has unrelated outstanding commitments. If you are interested, or known someone who might be, please don't hesitate to contact me. These costs will be considerable, several times greater than any past years. For reference, the U.S. Team claims it spends between $100-120k on each athlete at my level. My goal is to raise $75,000 to cover my own and my coach's expenses. This number would be significantly higher if I was skiing more during the early summer months, or late spring racing months. Instead, I'm choosing quality of quantity during the months closest to World Cup competition.
Finally, this website is designed to unite my current supporters and with potential new ones, and to create a platform to pursue this adventure together. To be blunt, I've been pretty bad about updating my blog in the past -- mostly because it just feels silly sharing my daily dairy with the internet, especially when many days look quiet similar to the last. To confront this issue, I've begun outlining a series of blogs to write about stuff relevant to ski racers/athletes/humans at large, not just a regurgitation of my daily activities. I'll use my Facebook Athlete Page to connect with a broader audience, give basic updates, and direct the more interested audience here, and I'll continue to use Instagram for fun, and to show the lighter side of being a ski racer.
Thanks for all of the love and support!