Aspen’s Hamilton sets aside early frustrations

Simi Hamilton
U.S. Ski Team
Aspen's Simi Hamilton competes in the opening race of the season last weekend.
USSA photo |

Athlete: Simi Hamilton

Sport/Event: Cross country skiing with a focus on sprinting

Upcoming Events: 2013-14 World Cup opener classic sprint in Kuusamo, Finland on Friday; World Cup skate sprint in Davos, Switzerland on Dec. 15

Ski racing is a lot like building an engine.

There are lots of parts and pieces, and when you get everything to fit together just right there’s nothing better than stepping on the accelerator to rev up the rpms, spin the tires a bit and push the limits of the power at your fingertips and toes.

But occasionally, as is bound to happen with every engine at some point in its life, it sputters, a gear breaks, and you get stuck on the shoulder going 30 mph with your hazard lights on.

So maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but that’s pretty much where I found myself last Friday as I struggled through to the finish of our first real race of the 2013-14 campaign.

Fortunately for me, it was a distance race (I’m primarily a sprinter), it wasn’t a World Cup (although any race in Norway may as well be), and it’s only November (pick your head up kid, you got five more months of this).

I’ve never felt healthier and fitter in my life than I do right now, and leading up to the season I showed some really good signs that my distance racing had improved 10-fold.

So, I was a little frustrated that at the 4-kilometer mark of a 15K race, I caught my kick wax pocket on a sheet of ice (these death traps are rampant in Europe as not many racers know how to ski corners like us Americans do), and within a matter of 0.0001 seconds, I was sliding on my face with a shattered pole in one hand and a humiliated ego in the other.

After a setback like that, especially that early in a 40-minute race, it’s hard to pull your head back into the place it needs to be to continue to race well. That’s especially true in any Scandinavian race when you know that one second will cost you five places when all is said and done.

So I took that frustration, stowed it away for the time being, finished up what certainly felt like a disastrous first real race of the season, and focused on what would come a couple of days later and what I’m best at — going fast for 1,500 meters.

Sunday’s skate sprint race was worlds better than my first go-around in Friday’s distance race.

As I sprinter, I put most of my stock in being able to ski as fast as humanly possible for three minutes. Most of the time, I can do that pretty well.

Sunday’s race proved that I am in a good place physically and mentally headed into the start of the World Cup season. Feeling fast, comfortable, and powerful, I qualified 15th (the top-30 move on to race in the proceeding heats), a race that would most likely have translated into a top-20 or top-15 qualification in a World Cup sprint.

The adage “rubbing is racing” certainly applies to sprinting, and unfortunately, I tangled with an aggressive German skier in my quarterfinal and found myself looking down the finishing stretch with a broken pole and all-too-early end to the day.

But that’s ski racing, and that’s why there’s always next weekend.

It’s great being back on the road with my team, my second family. We tend to click as teammates much more than some of the other World Cup teams, and it’s that chemistry that will make these next five months a thrilling and laughter-filled ride.

Stay tuned and thanks for all the love from the homeland!


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