USSA athlete spotlight: Ward closes ski season in Norway, Sweden

Michael Ward
U.S. Ski Team
Aspen, CO, Colorado

PARK CITY, Utah – My 2012-13 nordic combined season is over.

I’m back in Park City with some time off before we begin training for next year.

The winter started out with a bang: my first-ever podium finish – second in the Continental Cup (World Cup B) competition in Park City. I was hoping to build on that great, early- season result.

However, I ended up struggling the rest of the season and not skiing to my full potential. And in the sport of nordic combined, when you don’t have a good jump, it is hard to have a strong finish no matter how fast you ski a 10K race.

Despite my poor results, I still had a lot of fun and learned a great deal in my first season as a member of the United States Ski Team.

We started the last race series of the season in Norway. Our first two days were spent touring and training in Oslo. It is a very beautiful city but also very expensive.

The first day we were lucky enough to jump the new 120 hill at Holmenkollen, probably the most famous ski jump in the world. Someday soon, I hope to compete at that historic site.

The next day, we jumped Midtstubakken, the 90 hill, and cross country skied on the World Cup trails. I was amazed at the length and variety of trails. You could ski all day and never be on the same trail!

And the views from the top of the jumping hills overlooking the city of Oslo and the ocean are memorable.

After two day of training, we headed to Hoydalsmo, Norway, for the weekend competitions.

Unfortunately, our team struggled and did not come away with great results. Our “batter’s slump” continued.

The day after our competitions, we drove to Stockholm, Sweden, to pick up another coach and athlete. We spent a night in Stockholm, another one of the beautiful cities I have visited.

Then, it was on to Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, (six hours north of Stockholm). It is a small city in northern Sweden and has one of the coolest ski jumps in the world. The outrun (area where you land and slow down) goes underneath a train track.

We spent the next week training and felt confident heading into the competitions.

Unfortunately, no one could put together a good jump and race when it mattered. Teammate Nick Hendrickson jumped really well (eighth place) but didn’t ski very well and finished in the high 20s. It was a hard weekend, and I think the team took a blow mentally.

We were excited for the last competition of the year in Rovaniemi, Finland. Rovaniemi has the northernmost ski jump in the world, located at the Arctic Circle.

It is also the hometown of Santa Claus. Unfortunately, I never got to see Santa and ask him if he could help me with my jumping, but we saw plenty of his reindeer.

Team USA once again had a rough week and ended the last two competitions with no points.

For me, the season was not what I expected or wanted. I have already put the year behind me and am looking forward to training even harder for next year.

I have to say that even with the struggles, I am still so proud to be representing Aspen as a member of the U.S. Ski Team.

I am thankful for the support of my coaches, the National Nordic Foundation, and friends and family back home.

Next year, the Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia, and one of my goals is to make that Olympic team.

With that in mind I plan to train harder and smarter than ever for the next nine months.

Come watch us jump if you travel to Park City this summer.