Setback has only steeled Jake Zamansky | AspenTimes.com

Setback has only steeled Jake Zamansky

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado

Aspen native and U.S. Ski Team member Jake Zamansky smiles Thursday morning at the base of Keystone's North Peak following a few training runs. Zamansky is upbeat about his prospects for the upcoming season after losing nearly all of last season to a right knee injury. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily Aspen)

KEYSTONE, Colo. Local U.S. Ski Team member Jake Zamansky knows all too well just how cruel ski racing can be.And yet, after a knee injury wiped out his 2007 season, erasing all the progress Zamansky had made toward being a regular World Cup starter, the Aspen native remains unwavering in his passion for the sport.”You’ve got to love what you do, otherwise you’re not going to be successful as far as I’m concerned,” said a smiling Zamansky on Thursday at the base of Keystone’s North Peak, the current training base for the U.S. men’s and women’s teams. “I’ve always told myself, as soon as I’m not having fun doing it, then it’s time to move on. Right now, I feel great and the skiing feels great.”It’s an upbeat attitude for a guy who’s had his share of tribulations during six years with the U.S. team. After years of trying to break through on the World Cup, Zamansky seemed primed to do so last winter.

During the 2006 season, he won the NorAm Cup overall title after two giant slalom wins and another two silvers, which assured World Cup starts in the discipline last winter. In his first World Cup GS of the season in December at Beaver Creek, Zamansky was just three gates away from earning a second run before he crashed. He failed to finish or earn a second run in three more starts in either slalom or GS, but felt on the cusp of a breakthrough. He got heartache instead, tearing the MCL in his right knee during a GS in Hinterstoder, Austria, four days before Christmas.With surgery, Zamansky faced a full three and a half months before he could return to skiing. Knowing that his season was over, he opted to have surgery on his left shoulder to fix a chronic injury.He returned to the snow in May, and, at present, said he feels 100 percent.

“I feel real strong and my testing’s been good and the skiing feels great,” he said.He knows he’s in a tough spot, however, having squandered the opportunity he had last season. The setback has only made him more resolute.”I have to perform again at the early season NorAms which are here at Keystone just to get a start in Beaver Creek,” said Zamansky. “They gave me a start [at the first World Cup giant slalom] in Soelden, [Austria,] just on my world ranking and where the team is at right now. That was a good opportunity. I felt like I skied great. I made one big mistake coming down to the bottom flat, which cost me a second run, but it was good to get out of the start in the first time in 10 months.”Zamansky said his biggest hurdle to success at the World Cup level has been mental, not physical. He’s optimistic about this season because of how much he’s been through personally.

Three years ago, while mired in a slump, he seriously considered giving up his dreams and walking away from the U.S. team. He decided not to, and since then has been unwavering in his pursuit of success at ski racing’s highest level.”I think I’m in a good spot now, and you get to a certain point where it’s just another race,” he said. “You start to understand that when you get to the World Cup, it’s a show. It’s entertainment for people. When you’re racing Europa Cup and NorAms, you do it because that’s what you want to do and all the guys are out there with the same goals, which is to make the World Cup. When you get to the World Cup, there’s so much more involved with it. Even the buildup to it, the few days before a World Cup, it gets a little bit stressful, so you have to find ways to keep your routine the same.”I’m ready to show up at these NorAms here at Keystone and win and go to Beaver Creek and get something done there.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com.

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