‘The fastest skier of the day is Noah Hoffman’
December 19, 2013
I surprised myself on the opening World Cup weekend this year.
I've experienced some breakthrough performances in the past, but I've never taken as big of a step in one race as I did in the third race in Kuusamo, Finland, in late November.
The World Cup opens with a mini-tour, three races in a row that are timed cumulatively like the Tour de France.
The first day is a sprint, not my forte. I was as bad as I have been in the past, finishing in 106th place out of 125 competitors.
The second day was a 10-kilometer classic race, a better distance for me. I skied a race that would have been average last season, finishing in 28th position.
The third stage of the Tour is started based on the results from the previous two days. I started in 38th position, 62 seconds after the leader of the Tour.
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My goal for the day was to ski up to the top 20.
When the race started, I found it easy to follow the guys around me. I was able to move from group to group.
I wasn't paying attention to how many guys I passed or what place I was in. I just tried to stay relaxed and controlled while moving past people and moving from group to group.
Halfway through the race, I realized I was with the lead pack. I figured the lead pack must be huge because if I had gotten there a bunch of others must have as well.
When I looked back as we lapped through the stadium, I realized the lead group only contained 15 skiers.
I turned my focus to staying as relaxed and under control as possible. I knew it would get more difficult to stay with the group as we got near the finish.
As the last lap came around, four or five guys were able to break off the front.
My legs were screaming at me, and I was in the wrong position to try to go with them. I stayed close behind the skier in front of me, and I was able to cross the finish line in ninth place.
Soon after crossing the finish line, the stadium announcer said, "The fastest skier of the day is Noah Hoffman, of the United States."
Until I saw my teammates, who were very excited for me, it didn't occur to me that I'd had a breakthrough performance because it didn't feel like I'd done anything special.
I had only focused on staying relaxed and skiing a smart race. I hadn't pushed myself harder than I have in the past, and I didn't ski with different technique than I have been working on for years. It seemed so normal.
The success of that race has helped me believe in myself and believe that I belong at the international level.
The points I scored in that race take the pressure off for the rest of the season.
The finish guaranteed me a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in February. It allows me to ski without pressure and to focus on what I need to do to keep improving.
I can't wait to keep the momentum going.
Ninth place in the opening World Cup Tour in Kuusamo, Finland, including the fastest time in the final stage; 25th-place finish in the Davos, Switzerland, World Cup.
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