Young racer’s results show confidence
Jake Zamansky is delivering on expectations.After back-to-back wins in giant slalom at a NorAm Cup stop at Hunter Mountain, N.Y., earlier this month, Zamansky leads the NorAm GS standings and the overall standings. He’s also had strong results the past two weeks in Europa Cup races an eighth and an 18th in GS in Oberjoch, Germany, and a 14th in super G in Chatel, France, on Tuesday.The results represent a turning point for the 24-year-old Aspen native, who was selected to the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad in 1999, and was a forerunner for the alpine races at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.Since the last Olympics, inconsistency had marked Zamansky’s career on the U.S. Ski Team. He never qualified for a second run in 19 World Cup starts in either slalom or GS since 2002. His lone World Cup finish was a 61st in downhill last January in Val Gardena, Italy.The recent consistency at the NorAm Cup and the Europa Cup level – the minor leagues for the World Cup – may give Zamansky another shot at the World Cup in the near future.”If you win the title in any discipline in NorAm, you get a spot in a World Cup for that discipline,” said Zamansky’s father, Dave, a former ski racer himself. “The overall is good, but it’s better to have the individual titles.”Along with leading the GS standings, Zamansky is third in the NorAm super G rankings and fifth in slalom. After the upcoming Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the men’s alpine World Cup season wraps up with two giant slaloms in South Korea and two slaloms in Japan.”It’s general consensus among team members that the guy can ski really well,” said Aspen local Casey Puckett, a three-time Olympian who retired from the U.S. Ski Team in 2002. “The joke was, if you can beat Jake Zamansky in training, you can score a top-five in a World Cup. When he joined the team he just didn’t have the maturity level right away, and he’s had trouble coming through on the World Cup. He hasn’t quite lived up to how well he can ski in a race. It’s partly mental, partly experience.” Winning – on any level – can change all that, however, Puckett said. That’s why the decision to race in four FIS races at Steamboat this December might have been the best thing for Zamansky. He won three out of the four he entered before the NorAm starts.”He went to a lower level, and he started winning,” Puckett said. “Then he started going faster and went to the NorAm, where he won both GSs, and won them convincingly. Winning is the best thing you can do for your confidence. … His success is really based on that and making a good plan.”Zamansky’s father agrees with Puckett’s analysis.”Just getting the results he’s been getting has been a huge confidence boost for him,” Dave Zamansky said. “The last couple years, he hasn’t had the confidence because he wasn’t getting a second run.”But the renewed confidence goes back further than just the results at Steamboat, Dave Zamansky said.He had an inkling this season might be different for his son as far back as September, when Zamansky was preparing for the upcoming season with the U.S. Ski Team in South America. One of the national team coaches who took an active interest in helping Zamansky reach his potential was speed coach John McBride, another Aspen native.”He had a very positive training experience down there,” Dave Zamansky said. “It was a different group of guys, different coaches. Even talking on the phone he was a lot more positive. He’d say, ‘Things are going really good. I’m skiing better and I’m really enjoying myself.'”Regardless of whether he gets another World Cup start this season, the future looks bright for Zamansky, Puckett said.With the likely retirement of speed specialist Daron Rahlves at the end of the season, as well as the possibility of Bode Miller retiring shortly thereafter, the U.S. Ski Team will have to forge a new identity in the years to come. Zamansky hopes to be one of the new stars.”The ski team put criteria on Jake and said, ‘If you don’t get this world ranking, we’re going to drop you,'” Puckett said. “That either has a negative or a positive effect on someone. I think with Jake it’s positive. I think he wants to ski World Cups and win.”Nate Peterson’s email is email@example.com
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.