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Is purpose what makes the difference ? Is it that nearly un-evaluatable thing that distinguishes one being’s performance from another’s ? I say nearly un-evaluatable, because, for humans, there are a limitless number of different purposes that we may connect with during our passage through life. One purpose may not connect us completely to our true abilities like another one might. It can be seen, but it can't be known what exactly it is, just by looking. How does one find it ? We must be open to observation to feel what it is that unlocks those performative moments that change life forever. I can understand why baseball players are so damn superstitious - never make a change when things are going well. I’m like that about my ski socks now. I tried skiing in different socks twice this season, and it was enough of a distraction that I won’t do it again. And I’m down to 2 pair !! how long can they survive ?? (Stance - Jimmy Chin 2 ultralights XL. they don’t make them anymore - HELP)

It’s undeniable that Mikaela Schiffrin displays one of the highest connections to her purpose of anyone on the World Cup right now. One might even say her current level of commitment and focus to be in the realm of meta-purpose. It hasn’t been wholly consistent through recent seasons, even this season. I have to wonder how much Lindsay Vonn’s somewhat recent social media input has had on that. Specifically, the list Lindsay put out as Mikaela prepared to supplant Lindsay’s record of World Cup wins. I can understand Lindsay cementing, at the time she released it, that she was still the top of the Alpine top. Her career was amazing and I always loved watching her ski. So Powerful, So driven, So good. But her list was interesting. She chose to include several other skiing disciplines in the list, but not all of the skiing disciplines. I had to wonder why she left out ski-jumping when she included Cross-country skiing and Telemark skiing. No doubt Swiss telemark skier Amélie Reymond with 158 World Cup victories is amazingly impressive. I looked up the Ski Jumping wins and Sara Takanashi(JPN) has the most World Cup Ski Jumping wins at a more than respectable 63. So by Lindsay’s criteria, skiers with more than 80 wins, the vacancy on the list makes sense. But I was still left wondering what her purpose was… and if she was wholly aware of that purpose. I certainly do not know the answer to that, but her post still seemed to have an exceedingly competitive element to it, a ‘raising of the bar’ (for Mikaela) by including stats that Lindsay herself was never compared to. Of course, she may have just been giving props to some other amazing athletes that do not commonly get widespread recognition. But, if it was an element of ‘sour grapes’ how did this affect Shiffrin’s purpose? Not long after, Mikaela renewed her focus with a once again dominating presence, and released her aggressive plan to do 11 race runs in 10 days. Perhaps she just wants this monkey off her back before the World Championships - and wants to put the whole thing to bed. Perhaps their relationship is nothing but positive - I’ll probably never know, because Mikaela, whether full of grace or meta-focused, generally engages with the positive.

Mikaela is not the only one skiing with purpose out there, showing us every time they hit the snow. Wendy Holdener is full of fire after crowning her long career with a couple wins. That’ll give purpose ! Marco Odermatt has come back from his questionable status after the Hahnenkamm, with a smilingly-disarming Super-G vengeance - completely destroying all questions about how close Kilde was getting on points. Saturday, he skied amazingly. Then today, he made his Saturday performance look pedestrian, skiing turn shapes nobody else could hold, at the highest speeds of the entire field for the day. His finesse and foresight completely disarmed Kilde’s power this weekend - like the finest spanish swordsman disarming a phalanx of axe wielding berserkers with agility and ease - making it look as if they defeated themselves. The Swiss are so relieved. I just find it stunningly fun to witness the individuality of these athletes - how they each do it their way. Kilde ran a couple bibs after Marco today and it’s possible he had some knowledge that got into his head.

I have to, once again, feel for one of my favourites - Dominik Paris - who so often does ski with that engrossing sense of purpose - though less often since his injuries. I do know something about how injuries can infect commitment-to-purpose, getting in there to create doubt… eroding that once unquestionable trust that makes it so easy to do the aggressive move in the most demanding of situations - because it always worked before. Dominik skied in that beautiful zone today - 1st out of the start, down the Tofana-Schuss, which skied way faster today - he jumped into the flats so perfectly on his line, and so balanced - a harbinger that he was indeed connected to his purpose today. 2nd is not a bad thing, but I’m sure he cannot help but compare himself to Odermatt who bested his time by a huge .76. I was also curious to see Christof Innerhofer ski today - after yesterday, when the former World Champ and Hahnenkamm Super-G (with a broken fibula) winner, was in the middle of posting his best recent run - only to miscalculate one of the most important gates on the course, taking the turning pole in the chops mid-air, and getting violently dashed onto the surface then into the B-Netting. His nose and jaw were bloodied in the aftermath.

The set on Sunday in Cortina was super demanding and resulted in a fair amount of carnage. A Swiss named Nydegger was the setter. When I was coaching, our collective ethic was to set for a high finish rate. If there were a lot of DNFs, it wasn't a good set. But that was in a completely different venue. I do not know what the common ethos might be, or if there is one is among National Level coaches world-wide. I can hazard a guess as to the factual nature of the response a Swiss coach might give if somebody brought it up with him though. There were a lot of DNFs, ejections and course-holds while racers were extracted from the netting. Kilde skied out. Quite a few of the Swiss hopefuls who have been doing well were not up to today’s level of challenge. I hope Trevor Philp is ok. If anyone who has ever seen that old movie "ACL-Awareness", made by a panel of doctors who used existing footage of ski accidents known to have caused ACL ruptures - you’ll recognize some of the components they pointed out in his accident. The safety team came down with what the English (in their tabloid-esque fashion) call a ‘Blood Wagon’ - to toboggan him off the course.

So this purpose thing has made me think about team USA - on the mens’ side, which had some decent results at Kitzbühel. But what has been affecting them these recent-past seasons ? Ryan Chochran-Siegle and Bryce Bennett do have recent-ish speed wins. Ryan is an Olympic medalist. But I just have to say that recently, though his skiing looks technically fine, there has been something missing from his skiing when compared to that brief period (on the World Cup Circuit) when he was looking to become the current generation’s Bode Miller. I don’t throw that out there lightly, this idea, because it really does seem how it works in U.S. skiing. We have to have Superman and Wonder Woman. The team goes through periods when there isn’t one sometimes. I wonder if this paradigm is a tough one to excel in - but also if that truly is the point of it. Not about Depth like Austria, Norway or Switzerland - but about putting everything into that one exceptional athlete. In the spectator areas at mens’ events - when I hear American voices - “RCS” is usually in the sentence or phrase. Anyway - I sometimes go on about how the Olympics thing gets so much pressure and focus in the American Psyche - and how World Cup skiing sort of doesn’t really exist in that psyche - except for in the subculture. But little do a lot of Americans know, that every ski racer is a Hero over here. The French love it when “Lucky” Luke Winters takes to the course. There is a small Austrian town - without a ski natural-born ski racer to call their own - that has a Ted Ligety Fan Club. The announcers here pay attention to the stats of American ski racers and as their careers come to a close, ascribe an overall character to the effect their careers have had on ski racing - even if they weren’t The Superman, they were a superman.

Someone once told a group that I was a part of that, to perform really good Movement Analysis, you have to look ‘through the skier.’ I might be starting to understand. If I merely look at technique - it can be hard to figure out why one racer is faster than the other - but if I look for purpose, it is plainly evident. Take Anna Swenn Larson’s first run today in Spindleruv-Mlyn, She connected to it as she reached the middle flat section and wow did she have a great run after - but above that connection, she was searching. The difference is visible. The Crioatiennes are absolutely killing it. Zrinka Ljutic, 19 yrs old with a first WC podium ! I cried during Mikaela’s run. I thought she might pull it off - to connect like she did on her first run - But Lena Duerr, for her 4th podium this season - was the more connected one. The first German slalom win in 11 years, since Maria Höfl-Riesch won in Levi 2012. The announcer pointed out, as Mikaela stood in the start, that this start may be the most consequential one of her career. Wow - think of facing that as you look down the course. Interestingly enough, USA set Run 1 and Germany set Run 2 ! But don't skip the Slalom if my post has spoilered the results for you. The skiing was great by a lot of athletes. There's a lot to see, and it is making the run-up to the World Championships really interesting.

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  • Writer's pictureapexverbier

I'm going to start this one with a vid from our day. Jojo in her element. It's a small dream realized, getting out there together. It took precedence over the racing today. We have both been so busy! But watching her ski and be so moved was incredible ! We did get home to watch the races, and the thread of 'Days of Dreams' continued. Dreams realized. Dreams Dashed. Dreams Resurrected.

Last week, while we were In Wengen, we didn't skip out on the races In St Anton (the Birthplace of Ski Instruction). We were able to watch Brignone win while we were standing on the side of the Lauberhornrennen track. And this week, we didn't miss out on the action In Cortina. But this week was Hahnenkamm week ! I always want to be there ! This year's races have been stunning. From the stolid - unshakeable run Kriechmayr put in on the first downhill, to the unexpected podiums on all three days - to Kilde's theatrics and the continued amazing capabilities of Marco Odermatt. A lot of the tracks this season have shown the evidence of a low-snow season, which generally means that the shape of the earth beneath the snow is much less smoothed out - the hollows between the high parts less filled in. Both Cortina and The Streif were like this. The character of the event was a true downhiller's classic, and so were the performances ! The Mausefalle - Carousel - Steilhang section was skied so masterfully by a lot of the field - and not because it was easy. The Carousel, as it often does, threatened to shake the skiers' teeth out of their skulls.

Dreams Resurrected: Ilka Stuhec won the World Championship DH title in 2017 & 2019. It was during a relatively short period during which she laid down some serious results and looked to be building a solidly winning career. Then she was knocked down by a series of accidents/injuries that changed her trajectory. Ever since, I have been certain she would make a comeback, and watched with bated breath every time she skied. But with time, my belief faded. It didn't die. But I am human - and time is time. To see her win today was... Epic! She was on the podium both DH days in Cortina. 4 years since her last WC win! And Kajsa Vickhoff-Lie - another athlete who suffered a crushing injury. I think it took her something like 640 days to return to competition after her broken leg and torn acl. Her joy upon skiing to the podium was something to behold ! Cortina Is always a special event. As a speed venue, it always delivers. Even though we could only see the Tofana Schuss in the backdrop of the start today (due to wind), the venue still demanded the most form the athletes. I don’t know where to put Daniel Yule in here. He goes through slumps, but punctuates every season with important wins. It must have been great for he and Dave Ryding to stand up there together in 1st & 2nd on the SL podium ! They train together quite a bit. Ryding really is a great skier. His career stats somehow do not equal his skiing ability. He has been so close to that podium on many occasions only to have it end badly on that all important second run.

Dreams Dashed: A day after posting another win, Sofia Goggia went down in a rolling section of the course that cost more than a few skiers a dream today. Thankfully, it looks like Sofia was ok in the aftermath. But she must take this so hard, every time, she goes out it is to win. Right now she is in a battle with Brignone, who last week took the tittle of winningest Italienne. I have to mention Jared Goldberg here, for awhile he really looked like The Dream Dasher of the day when he pushed Dominik Paris and Sejersted(tied for 3rd at the time) off the podium. Jared was bib 28 and by all sense of reality must have truly believed he was finishing 3rd place, on the podium, at the Hahnenkammrennen ! Then Florian Schieder came from nowhere (bib 43!), skiing into 2nd place ! Amazing !

Nightmares: The start on the Streif is truly precipitous. I always say that is is something any lover of skiing needs to see with their own eyes. The camera angles do not do it justice. The racers' skis hang out into space as they stand in the start. There isn't much but air between them and that first big jump a few seconds down the course. The Mausefalle. I really can't imagine the confidence and trust it must take to skate out of that start, ski down that surface into the traps that await, with ones proprioceptive process trying to excite every ‘flight’ instinct there is - while trying to go as fast as you can. The big bump on the Hausberg Traverse was really a problematic feature this year. It usually is, but its shape was really evil this time - an actual jump for most, with more of a compression in the landing. The skiers, living their dreams in that start, hang between the bad and the good side of dreamland, but they must keep themselves connected to reality for any hope of success... and for some... survival. On that note, Marco Odermatt’s condition is still undergoing evaluation. I cannot be the only one who was afraid of what was happening to him on the Steilhang, with that uphill leg above his head, flattening that downhill ski which needed to hold the line on the steep off-camber slope - it drops directly into the netting. I was sure he was going to ski straight in Full Gas - But no, he recovered so instantly from that seemingly impossible position. Thank goodness. However, His knee needs more examination to determine exactly how injured he is. A nightmare in more than one way for him with Kilde within 200 pts and the impending 2023 World Championships.

Dreams Realised: Kriechmayr skied in perfect form. His run on the Streif day 1 is the current standard for textbook DH skiing. For him to do it on home turf like he did must be extra special. Florian Schieder, wow, what must it be like to be him right now? The Italian Team has a relatively good history on the Streif, and he is carrying the flag right now. Niels Hintermann (SUI), a near clone of Beat Feuz, also stepped onto that Podium on day 1! Giving Switzerland hope that the retirement of their vaunted speed champion does not spell the complete end of an era… Though end of an era it is, with the Kügelblitz leaving the circuit. But it is a dream realised to go out the way he is, at the top of his reputation, and healthy. Danke Beat !

Both DoPa and Sejersted get mentions here, so nearly saving their teams’ bacons — Sejersted, after Kilde’s near-death entry into the Zeilschuss cost him too much time to podium on day 1. But Kilde never lets a moment of trouble supplant his determination and he came back strong Saturday - showing the world that he is the world’s best Downhiller right now.

And now a moment for the U.S. Mens’s Speed Team. Congratulations ! For Travis Ganong, finishing on the podium in the most exalted race in World Cup, in his final time down the Streif, is magic. The Swiss announcers were extolling his abiltiy to finish very fast: in his career, he tended to be a bit slower on the upper portions of courses, but often posted the fastest times in the lower sections, no matter his finish standing. Travis has left a mark upon Work Cup Racing. Jared Goldberg… I was fortunate enough to be invited to a U.S. Ski Team Evening event in 2016 when Jojo and I went to Kitzbühel. I met Jared’s mother there. Our conversation left an impression and I have been constantly paying attention to Jared’s career, thinking about the trust and hope his mother has for him. He has shown golden moments, but none more golden, in Ski Racing, than sitting on the podium until the bitter end. He placed 4th. But 4th is Damn Good, and Damn good for the U.S. Speed Team. Thank you Jared. I hope the experience propels you into your future! Please, get a haircut. I lived for many years with the Business Up Front Party in the Back Mullet thing. Life gets better when you let that go.

Finally, I feel like apologising. It’s not possible to cover so many races and do justice to everyone who laid it on the line. All I can say is do what you must do to see it. Get a VPN and then you can stream every race no matter what is offered in your country. Or better yet…book a flight and a hotel room, get in the mix, and change your life for the better!

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