Tuesday, February 26, 2013

La Morte del Sogno

The women's final, moments before the start.

La morte del sogno, in homage to the terme where the dream came to die. Usually the death to a dream is a sad affair, a cautionary tale. On the ski trails of Lago di Tesoro arena, beside the village of Val di Fiemme in the northern Italian region of Trentino tears might have been shed, emotions might have overflowed. But from what I saw and what I heard they were the joyful kind. For the first time America stood atop the podium at the World Ski Championships. Ever. That's some pretty desirable real estate. The view must be quite nice from up there.

It's a dream many Americans have chased, and are chasing, myself included. All you can do is tip your hat in appreciation to what Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins were able to accomplish in the team sprint event. February twenty-fourth, two-thousand-thirteen marked the end of a dream, and one that will be remembered in the history books.

Men's semifinal number one.

An old coach wrote, saying he had already watched the race over and over. The result, he said, was  always the same - Jessie handing off to Kikkan with the lead, Kikkan leaving nothing in doubt, crossing 7.8 seconds in front of second. And every time, big old tears ran down the old coach's face. Even cowboys can cry.


The day before, I raced a European Cup (OPA Cup) Sprint in Hirschau, Germany. My friend Martin Jaeger put up the best time of the day. I was second. After not feeling fresh or having much of any snap since coming across the Atlantic a couple weeks ago, two days before I had that little feeling that I was back. Now I have the confirmation. The stoke is burning hot for the springtime ski racing scene.

Driving to the race early that morning, I was thinking back eight years, almost to the day, and the European Cup sprint in Oberstdorf, Germany. Eight years previous, I was in perhaps the shape of my life. Unfortunately I could not hold it, picking up a nasty case of bronchitis in the hills of Seiser Alm, Italy just days before the 2006 Torino Olympics. From my experience, having top shape to tipping over is the sharpest of an edge. Eight years ago, I won that European Cup, driving hard on the hardest climbs and breaking the field apart. Today might not have been quite that good, but... but... I see the way to the top.

Hop skating in Oberstdorf, with my then-teammate Andrew Newell chasing.

It's a nice state to be in. With very few exceptions - maybe Dario Cologna or Kikkan or Jessie Diggins feel differently - but I'd say there is more heartbreaks than breakthroughs in elite sport. Not that there is anything wrong with this, it's just part-and-parcel to the process. And with my apologies to the hokey-pokey, working hard and enjoying this process is what it's all about.

Where it all got started.

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