Athlete Spotlight: Katie Ryan
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Name: Katie Ryan
Sport: Alpine skiing
Recent competitions and results: St. Anton Europa Cup downhill,
Upcoming competitions: Jansa, SLK Europa Cup Downhill, Jan. 29 and 30; Vail NorAms giant slalom and slalom, Feb. 2 and 5
Last week, you read Alice McKennis’ World Cup version of St. Anton. Now, it’s my turn.
After most World Cups come to a close, the Europa Cup stakes the claim on the same hill. I had a taste of my first-ever Europa Cup downhill last week, and I agree with Alice, saying, “(St. Anton) is one of the most difficult courses on the women’s tour.” The bottom half of the course feels like you’ve just inched your way to the very top of a roller coaster’s peak and suddenly are rickshawing straight down, your butt lifting off the seat, and then slammed down around crazy turns, stomach bouncing off your ribs, with the feeling you’re just about to be thrown out of the cart.
That is St. Anton, except there are no safety harnesses keeping you on the track. As I stand on top of the highest point of the snowy roller coaster known as Ice Fall, I grip the bulletproof snow with my skis and look up either side of the narrow ski run as rock walls keep going up and then down at the course falling away from the earth. I don’t move, and my mind wants to resist letting me hurl myself over this cliff. My basic instincts are screaming, “Don’t you dare!” But this is ski racing, and if your coach says you’re running it, it’s at least semi-safe.
Every girl here is on the cusp of racing World Cup if they don’t already. Each race is bound to be extremely competitive and, on a track like this, intense. I slide to a stop in the finish corral and feel a sense of relief wash over. Only then do I realize the amount of nerves I blocked out. I’m emotionally numb before the race, trying to only visualize where my skis are about to take me, but after, I’m all over the map, happy I survived but not happy with my performance. Even though I can barely remember how my run went, I know it was far from great.
My race runs were filled with mistakes: a few bobbles and more than one washed-out turn. Going over video after each run, I see all the mistakes in additional time on the clock – a tenth here, a half a second there – but what’s great about making mistakes is the ability to learn from them. This is a learning experience unlike any other because it’s real, and you either get to your downhill ski or you don’t and eat some A-net. After St. Anton, every other downhill I will run this year looks tame, and I have the confidence to handle them just fine. Bring on the speed.
My teammates and I are currently training in Maria Alm, Austria, for the week and then racing another Europa Cup downhill in Jansa, Slovakia (more of a Fanny Hill of downhills), which we are all very thankful for to redeem some downhill points from. We are only midway through our month of European adventures, but I feel as though I never left from last January. I thoroughly enjoy my time spent in the Alps. I crack up laughing at the way Europeans sing American pop songs. I love how hotels have vetoed sheets and just go for the comforter. I even like being scared as I run through giant church cemeteries on my 6 a.m. morning runs. Even on the days when I get my butt handed to me, I still look around and can’t help but smile because this is the real deal. The competition is at an all-time high, but so are the views.
Follow Katie on the Web: http://www.katieryanco.blogspot.com
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Skico CEO Mike Kaplan emphasized in a virtual address that this upcoming skiing season will be as spread out as possible with limited personal interaction in order to avoid potential COVID-19 infections and keep the mountains open.