Nordic Notes: Talking Olympics with Aspen XC skiers Noah and Simi
Last month in South Korea, Simi Hamilton became a rare three-time Olympian while Noah Hoffman returned for his second. The two cross-country skiers grew up in Aspen and still consider it home when not competing on the World Cup.
The results weren’t exactly dreamy in Pyeongchang. Hoffman’s best individual finish was 33rd, while Hamilton was sixth in a team sprint that many thought could have ended with a medal. Still, I asked the U.S. Ski Team veterans to briefly sum up their experiences in South Korea, which included watching the first ever medal for U.S. women’s cross-country skiing when Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall took gold in the team sprint.
The cross-country skiers already are returning to the World Cup circuit, with races this weekend in Finland and next weekend in Norway before the World Cup Finals the week after in Falun, Sweden.
–Austin Colbert, The Aspen Times
Noah Hoffman: A thank you to the people of the 2018 winter Olympics
I can’t capture my experience at the Olympics in 500 words.
I really can’t describe the feeling of walking into the opening ceremonies to a barrage of light and sound from every direction that entirely overwhelmed my capacity to take it all in. I can’t convey what it feels like to begin the anchor leg of the Olympic distance relay so far behind the leaders that I was only 55 seconds ahead of them on the 3.3-kilometer lap. I can’t adequately express how I felt when I learned that the nice man I was chatting with at a café turned out to be Otto Warmbier’s father. I really can’t fully communicate the shock, ecstasy and disbelief I experienced watching two of my teammates, who are like sisters to me, win the first Olympic gold medal in U.S. cross-country skiing history.
I’m not Mark Twain, for sure. But I doubt that even he could do justice to the experience of representing our country at the Olympics.
I shared as much as I could from the games via my daily blog at noahhoffman.com, but it all feels inadequate. My attempts to bring you along on this journey are not up to the grandiosity of the journey itself.
I did get to share my experience with 2,921 athletes from around the world, 243 members of Team USA, 19 teammates on the U.S. cross-country ski team and five athletes representing the Roaring Fork Valley. Living the Olympic dream with each of these people was the singular defining theme of my Olympics, and every memory that I have from Pyeongchang is better because of the people who lived those experiences with me. More than any single experience or the duffle bags full of swag I sent home, I will hold onto and cherish the memories of the people I met and the new friendships I formed in Korea.
I didn’t win a medal at the Olympics; I wasn’t even close. This fact would have distressed me at one point in my career, but it now seems completely beside the point. My 54th-, 48th- and 33rd-place finishes, plus our team’s last-place finish in the relay, are irrelevant. What is important to me, now that my Olympic experience is complete, are the memories of the games and the relationships I developed there.
I understand the best things in life are better when shared. My Olympic experience was one of the best of my life. I had the privilege of being part of Team USA because so many people went to extraordinary lengths to help me on my journey.
I hope that my writing allowed those people and other readers to share in the joy I experienced through my participation in the Pyeongchang Olympic Games.
Simi Hamilton: The daunting task of summing up the Winter Olympics
It’s hard to feel anything but pride when I sit down to reflect on how I, and our valley’s local athletes, represented our community at the recent 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
When I was asked to write a somewhat brief summary of the games, I’ll admit it was a little daunting of a task to think about simply because you could probably write a novel about the results, stories and experiences that each one of us athletes earned, lived and witnessed.
So I’ll do my best, and even though it is a bit daunting to try to fit it all into a short summary, it doesn’t make it any less exciting to share some of the amazing moments I lived during those two weeks in February as I competed in my events as well as watched my fellow RFV athletes write their own extraordinary stories.
South Korea put on a great show. One of the most welcoming cultures in the world, the locals showed us they were proud and excited to be hosting the games. The logistics involved in putting on an Olympics is mind-blowing, and the organizing community executed them to near perfection (it’s never totally perfect at the Olympics, no matter how many resources they have or how long they have to prepare). Although a bitter cold front swept through the region for about half of the two-week period, the sun shone bright in a blue-bird sky almost everyday, making for quite a few days that felt a lot like home. The cross-country venue was extremely well designed with hard, but fair, courses flowing through a rugged golf course and a brand new 10,000-seat stadium.
The sprint course skied like some of our local trails at the high school or Spring Gulch with steep, punchy climbs giving way to extremely fast downhills with massive banked corners. I was happy with the two sprint races, but I came away from both of them feeling like I hadn’t been able to show what I was truly capable of achieving. In the individual classic sprint, I had a good start to the evening with a decent qualification, but a ski tangle in the quarterfinals with another racer and the ensuing crash meant that my night ended much earlier than I had anticipated.
After that heartbreak, it was time to focus on the skate team sprint, the event I was most looking forward to. I felt like I had done everything perfectly to prepare for that race, and I was more fit than I had been all season, but for whatever reason my body was 1 percent off the night of that race and that made all the difference. My teammate, Erik Bjornsen, and I still finished a respectable sixth place, but it was a race where if we had both been skiing perfectly, I have no doubt we would have been on the podium.
Even though my races weren’t the “best of my career races” I was looking for, it made everything worth it when I was able to look up into the stands to see my family and the hundreds of Team USA fans cheering us on during all of our cross-country events.
During the several hours each day we weren’t sleeping, eating or training, our time was consumed with watching all of our RFV teammates crush it in alpine, snowboard halfpipe, snowboard cross, snowboard big air and ski halfpipe. It’s one thing to turn on the TV and see one of your Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club teammates earn a medal or throw a trick that has never been attempted before, but it’s something else entirely to share a meal and a laugh in the dining hall with that same person after they get home from their venue.
We have three more weeks of World Cup racing left in Europe before we come home, so the season isn’t winding down quite yet for some of us, but I can guarantee you that no matter when we are lucky enough to return to the valley, we’ll all be antsy and energized to share and relive some of our Olympic stories with all of our friends and family back home. See you soon!
Editor’s note: Nordic Notes is a column written by Aspen-raised cross-country skiers Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman as they compete on the World Cup circuit and in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
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Basalt High School’s “small but mighty” track and field team is ready to save the day. Well, the Longhorns will train hard and probably break a few school records at least, although coach Allyson Decatur does liken the athletes to superheroes from time to time.