What I Learned in Sochi and at Sundance

This week, I missed Sundance Ladies Day for the Olympics in Sochi. It was so wonderful to be there next to the Black Sea and to be able to watch the greatest skiers in the world.

I wish!  Actually, I got bronchitis and had to miss Ladies Day. Since I had tons of “quality time” laying in bed, I watched downhill, slalom, freestyle, super combined and so on and sometimes when the coughing woke me up, I got to watch the same events again at 2 am.  I even watched snowboarding (yes, Lindsay, I am sure you are proud of me for not being prejudice).

I always watch the Olympics like a good American cheering on the Home Team.  I worry and fret over races that have already been run 11 hours earlier.  And without my favorite sports broadcaster, Bob Costas, things could have been even more bleak than a Tolystoy Winter and worse than the snow in Sochi.

But, not so. I approached the Olympics like attending the world’s most advanced ski school.  Watching the world’s best skiers and listening to the comments made by the mostly insightful Dan Hicks.  In true American fashion, I have used my ingenuity to learn what I can from the situation I am in and I think I have gained a great deal from my Sochi Olympic Ski School.  Now, it is in no way as good as Sundance Ladies Day and I can’t wait to get back on the slopes, but in the mean time, let me share with you what I learned in Sochi that I also learned at Sundance.

Same Struggles: Last week, Kipper said that there are not a lot of new skills to learn, just degrees of perfecting those skills.  Now, I see what she means because watching the world’s best, I could see the same struggles just in much more refined stages.  Lindsay will be proud to know that Ted Ligity shares her hand dropping problem.  Julia Mancuso got too far in her back seat and lost control like I do sometimes (well a lot of times).  I saw skiers turn their upper bodies (my big mistake).  Others lost focus or tried to push the skies too soon instead of trusting the line they had taken.  Many struggled with conditions, which, to be fair, have been awful.  I thought I was the only person who hated skiing on variable snow conditions but I see that even the world’s best hate it as much as I do.

Same Skills: The skills that Sundance instructors are teaching are the same skills that Olympians need to work on. Of course, they are working on perfecting their skills in millimeters and are working on shaving off milliseconds, but I see them using the same skills my instructors are teaching me.  Watching the mogul skiers I see the value of keeping the upper body pointed down the mountain while keeping the lower body pivoting like a gyroscope.   Seeing the downhill races, I understand the importance of keeping the ski on edge and pushing the ski into the mountain.  I see how much chatter there really is in the ski and how strong you can be (and how much your ski flexes—WOW).  I may not be laying it down like Bode Miller, but I realize my ski can take a more aggressive line than I have given it credit for.  Kipper has been telling me to be a warrior and attack the mountain.  There is nothing dainty in the way Julia Mancuso skis—even if she is girlie with her sequins and her tiara.  She attacks the mountain and goes full force.  Don’t hold back.

Play to Strengths: I noticed that each skier has a different ski personality. Some are the type that just shoot down the mountain like their rear is on fire.  Others plot their way down with more precision.  The successful ones know their strengths and use them to be more successful.   As a new skier, I need to find my own strengths and play to those.  I don’t have the same strengths as Lindsay.  She, by nature, is more aggressive than me and has more athletic experience and snowboarding experience than me.  I think mine is patience.  I am willing to wait for it to come and practice over time—at least I keep telling myself this is true.  Fake it till you make it right?   My husband reminded me the other day that I have only been skiing a total of about 50 hours so I needed to cut myself some slack because expecting anyone to do something well that is not related to anything they have EVER done in 50 hours is probably not very realistic.  True.  I will use my patience strength to be a great skier by the time I am in my 50s! Over time, this will pay of and I am having fun in the mean time.  Ladies Day each year is definitely speeding up my process.  I would never have made it this far without their help.

Nobody Does it Alone: You see one person swooshing down the mountain, but you don’t see the 20 people behind the person who made it possible for that person to be up there: parents, trainers, coaches, and so forth who were there to support, teach, and train that person from a very young age so they could have an Olympic moment.  Same thing for me.  Without Sundance Ladies Day, I would have given up the first season—actually, I never would have tried without Linda Hale.  And then if I had tried and stayed with it, I definitely would have quit this year when I had my ride in the toboggan.  But, great instructors helped me get back up there and are keeping me coming back.  As soon as I am medically cleared, I will be back up on the slopes.

Got to Have Heart: Finally, no Olympian makes it there by giving up. Like the penguins of Madagascar say, it takes spit, grit and a whole lot of duct tape.  Amen!