Local racer third in NorAm giant slalom | AspenTimes.com

Local racer third in NorAm giant slalom

Nate Peterson

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Local U.S. Ski Team member Jake Zamansky said he’s in a “different place” mentally than in years past, and it’s showing in the results column this season.Zamansky was third in Monday’s NorAm Cup giant slalom at Keystone, finishing just 0.22 seconds behind Italy’s Alessandro Roberto, who had a winning two-run time of two minutes, 16.24 seconds. Finland’s Kalle Palander, who led after the first run, took the silver.The podium finish comes just six days before Zamansky’s first World Cup start in nearly a year. Now in his fifth year on the U.S. Ski Team, the Cardondale resident said he feels fully prepared to tackle skiing’s highest circuit after failing to break through in 20 previous World Cup starts.All but one of those came in giant slalom and slalom, where Zamansky has yet to qualify for a second run.

After failing to finish his first slalom run at last year’s World Cup men’s races at Beaver Creek, Zamansky spent the season racing in the U.S. and Canada at the NorAm level. He won two giant slaloms and was second in two more to win the season-long GS title, assuring him World Cup starts in the discipline this season. And earlier this month, he won a time trial at Keystone to lock up his start in Sunday’s World Cup slalom on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course.Monday’s GS – the first of four NorAm races at Keystone this week – featured a number of World Cup regulars in the field of 85. Another GS is scheduled for today, followed by two slaloms. Zamansky hopes to perform well in all three races to improve his world ranking in both disciplines, which he said is vitally important to succeeding on the World Cup circuit.He is currently 44th in the world in slalom, which will put him close to the middle of the starting order Sunday. World Cup slaloms tend to have a field of about 70-75 racers, with the top 30 advancing to the second run.”I’ve raced a handful of World Cups, but I’ve never had a breakthrough yet,” said Zamansky, 25. “This is the best starting position I’ve ever had, so that should help.”Selected to the national development team at 18, Zamansky spent two years at that level before jumping up to the U.S. Ski Team’s C Team.

A four-event skier who has had his best results in the technical events, Zamansky has been known – in U.S. team circles – as someone with all the physical gifts to succeed at alpine’s highest level but who has yet to reach his potential.Zamansky said that assessment is accurate. In the past, he wasn’t in the right frame of mind when it came to competing on the World Cup. The success he had last season helped him clear some mental hurdles.”Being young and inexperienced has a lot to do with it,” he said. “I’ve had the speed for a while, but when you’re going fast like that you can make a lot of mistakes. I’m in a lot better state than I used to be. I definitely had some mental issues in the past, but for over a year now, it hasn’t been a problem. I’ve got a new state of mind.”National team slalom and GS coach Mike Morin has noticed a difference: In a news release, he said, “[T]hose are the two best runs I’ve seen Jake lay down in a race. He really skied with confidence and was looking good.”

Zamansky mentioned there’s a possibility he may get World Cup starts in super combined, which pairs a super G and a slalom. There are three such races in the men’s World Cup calendar, including one in Val d’Isere, France, set for Dec. 10 – a race that could move to Aspen because of scant early-season snow throughout Western Europe.The prospect of racing in front of family and friends on the same mountain where he used to bash gates with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club had Zamansky excited Monday night. “I hope they do it,” he said. “I would love to race at home. My World Cup debut was supposed to be in Aspen in 2002, but unfortunately they canceled the GS. It’d be really cool to come home.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.