Athlete Spotlight: Noah Hoffman
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Sunday marked the close of my second nordic world ski championships. The World Championships are a biennial event that exceeds all but the Olympic Winter Games in hype and prestige. This year’s championships were in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
For me, the World Championships were another opportunity to take a step forward in my career and another opportunity to race against the best in the world. I was not a medal threat this year, but I did accomplish my goal of improving over my previous results and learned lessons that will help me in future races.
My best result this week was the 15-kilometer individual-start skate race. I finished in 15th place, a career best for me. In the race, I started slowly and increased my speed as the race progressed. This pacing strategy is a learned skill that has taken me years to achieve (and still often eludes me). I also skied well in Sunday’s 50-kilometer mass-start classic. I was able to stay with the leaders for 37 kilometers before fading back to 27th position by the finish.
Making progress towards my goal of being the best distance cross country skier in the world is not always a continuous upwards path and can often be frustratingly slow. I have raced this season on the FIS World Cup tour, the highest-level race series in the world. I entered this season with the goals of qualifying for the World Cup finals (top-50 overall World Cup skier at the end of the season) and ending the year in the Red Group (top-30 distance World Cup skier for the previous 12 months). If I can accomplish both of those goals, I likely will be named to the U.S. Ski Team’s A team. With two weekends to go, I am on the bubble of both accomplishments. I am currently ranked 48th on the overall list and 32nd on the distance list.
I will race Sunday in Lahti, Finland, in a 15-kilometer individual-start classic World Cup and the following weekend in the famed Holmenkollen 50k, a skate mass start. In order to hold my spot in the top-50 on the overall list and get into the top-30 on the distance list, I need to score World Cup points (be top-30) in both races. I am looking forward to the challenge of accomplishing my goals.
I have been in Europe since Dec. 23. I have spent all but three weeks over here since Nov. 12. Support from my friends and family at home, and the incredible community of Aspen, has been invaluable in keeping me positive and motivated through the ups and downs of ski racing.
My teammates on the U.S. Ski Team also have been essential to my progress towards my goals. Living with a small group of people in small hotel rooms all over the world (some nice places and some that aren’t so nice) is like being in a relationship with 10 different people whom you didn’t choose.
Like all relationships, you have to work at it to make it successful. This season, we have made it work extremely well. The girls are having the best season ever for U.S. women. They have the current World Cup Sprint leader (Kikkan Randall), a gold medal in the World Championship team sprint with Kikkan and Jessie Diggins and five girls ranked in the top 37 in the world. Our men’s team has been able to feed off the women’s success. The camaraderie on the team is exciting as we lead up to next winter’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Before I move my focus to next season, I still have some goals to accomplish this season. You can follow my progress at http://www.noahhoffman.com.
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Katelyn Maley was the first across the finish line on Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center, winning the Class 3A girls state championship in 18 minutes, 39 seconds. She came in more than 34 seconds ahead of second place.