Name: Katie Ryan
Recent competitions and results: Copper NorAm Speed Week: super G, sixth, second; downhill, second, first; Copper U.S. Alpine Championships downhill, second; Panorama NorAm super G, 15th, fourth.
Upcoming competitions: Aspen FIS giant slalom, Jan. 3 and 4; Europa Cup downhill, Jan. 15 through 18, St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria.
I am sky high.
Marie Claire magazine is sprawled in the open seat next to me, the seat belt sign is on, and I'm waiting for the flight attendant to turn away so I can plug in my music. I am en route from Spokane, Wash., to Aspen after a long and exhilarating three weeks on the road.
This month was jam-packed with NorAm races, leaving me physically beat up but mentally effervescent. I'm off to what many have told me is a "great start to the season," and what I feel is just the beginning of an exponential ascent. The North American Cup is my battleground. The points are highly valuable because nabbing the overall at the end of the season can get you a World Cup spot in every event. I am gunning for those spots.
While the level of competition is at an all-time high, I have never enjoyed competing more than I have so far this year. I am at ease on my skis and have faith in my ability to turn them (and with many girls hesitant to make the switch to the new radius FIS skis, that's saying a lot). This trust has much to do with my unbelievable prep period this summer and fall. I broke my ankle in July, but playing catch-up may have been to my advantage because I now feel like a better athlete on every playing field. Since I missed out on summer ski trips, I had five one-on-one days doing drills with my coach before our November camp. Those slow-motion days were vital, and I doubt I would be skiing as well without them. All things happen for a reason, I'm sure. I have much to improve on to get where I want to be, which instead of being daunting is motivating. There's no point, or very much fun, if you're not progressing every day.
The theme of the holidays in my eyes is "love and light." We rejoice in light in the darkest part of the year with our loved ones. I see that motto ring true within ski racing, as well. Skiing has opened doors for me, made me see the light of my own faults and witness an intense amount of love not only for the sport but also in the dedication of racers, coaches and supporters alike. During the Copper NorAms, I squeaked into first in the second downhill race (my first NorAm win), and the wave of love that came back to me was so great. All I can do is say "Thank You" and try not to get too worked up.
The day after, I came in second in another downhill that counted as national championships, earning my first paycheck from ski racing. Finally, I can start paying my folks back for their wise investment. My family's support has always been spirited, and I've never looked forward to Christmas with them more!
There is only love and light.
Follow Katie on the web: katieryanco.blogspot.com