Aspen’s Hamilton confident about team sprint going to 3rd Games | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Hamilton confident about team sprint going to 3rd Games

Aspen Nordic skier Simi Hamilton from Oct. 25, 2017.

Entering his third Winter Olympics, Simi Hamilton can still find joy in the competition. But after talking to one of his American teammates who is headed to his first Games, it became even clearer how special the opportunity is.

"It was fun talking to him to hear how psyched he was because it made me really appreciate that excitement of the Games," Hamilton said recently from Austria. "I'm just as excited as I was that first time. But I think now at this point in my career, going into my third Games, it's a little more focused on performing as well as I can and knowing what to expect once I get there."

Hamilton, the 30-year-old Aspen-raised cross-country skier, said it doesn't seem like it was that long ago when he made his Olympic debut at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Then he reflected on all the World Championships and World Cup seasons in between, and it dawned on him exactly how long it's been.

"It definitely seems like it was just yesterday that happened," Hamilton said. "It's still a fun journey to be on and it's still exciting every day. I think I'm drawing to a close, getting closer to being done with this career. But it's a great feeling to know I'm still skiing stronger and better every single day and still getting fitter even though I'm 30."

Hamilton has long been one of the top American male sprinters. He's ranked 14th in the World Cup sprint standings entering this month's Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he feels he could contend for a podium. Four years ago in Sochi he had similarly high expectations, especially for the individual skate race, but the stars simply didn't align for him in Russia.

"I just didn't have a great day that day in Sochi," Hamilton said. "I had some equipment trouble. I broke a pole. It was a really long and hard course, which I'm generally not very good at. I felt like that was a pretty big letdown for me as a skate sprinter."

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With no individual skate event this year in Pyeongchang — they alternate classic and skate events each Olympics — Hamilton has his sights set on the Feb. 21 team skate sprint. He still plans to compete in Tuesday's individual classic and hopefully the Feb. 18 relay, but he thinks his best results will be in that team event.

"That's kind of why I'm looking toward the team sprint, because it's a skate event. But I also know I have the potential to put down a really good classic individual sprint as well," Hamilton said. "It's the ultimate goal to be on the podium and win some hardware. But it's ski racing and a lot of things need to go right. A lot of things can go wrong."

The men's cross-country ski races got underway early Sunday morning with the skiathon, which Hamilton was on the fence about competing in. His Aspen teammate, two-time Olympian Noah Hoffman, was set to compete. Having Hoffman, who was on the Olympic bubble, with him in South Korea is a nice boost for Hamilton.

Hamilton and Hoffman are two of the nine former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes competing in the 2018 Olympics.

"We are all doing what works for us and it's a really cool reminder when we all get back together at the Games that our community is capable of producing some amazing talent," Hamilton said. "It makes us all really proud that we can look around and see so many other AVSC athletes and kids we went to high school with."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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