I won the World Championships! The day started out pretty rough…with a two minute hike in qualifying just to get through the course…and then I went on to win.
I had a terrible run in training, first thing. The first big jump on the course was coming out of a series of rollers and was a right ski traverse across the hill, with a landing that required a quick move on to a very steep, off camber, left-footer with huge holes developing early on. I flew way too far off the jump and couldn’t get on it in time to make the tough corner and then get it together to hit the biggest jump on the course coming out of it. I was, however able to stand on the side of the course and watch a few of the other athletes roll through there. Learning that everybody else was having a rough go through there turned out to be very beneficial.
Just before qualifying, my coach Eric Archer, got the four of us Canadian girls together to let us know what was up with the line through there. He told us to take that jump at the top of the pitch way right – the take-off of the jump was shaped on an angle, with the right side being significantly smaller than the left – and switch into the next turn in the air to land on our edge and initiate that tough turn instantly upon touching down. In the time trial, I nailed the line coming off the jump and got on my edge right away, but pressured a split second to early and hooked my ski on the inside of the gate. My inside ski had not gone around the gate. I had missed the gate and would be disqualified. I almost went down as the gate grabbed at my foot and threw me off balance, and by the time I collected myself I was halfway down the pitch, below the take-off of the big jump. Fortunately, this was one of the gnarliest courses on the circuit as far as high-speeds and big air. More than 15 women had dropped out of the event throughout the two days of training on course, leaving only 30 women to compete for the 32 spots in the finals. I knew that if I could just get back up there and get around that gate, I would still have a shot. I hiked as fast as I could, not because there is a rule against how long you have to get through, but just cause I needed to put a good effort in to avoid holding up the race for too long. So approximately 1 minute and 50 seconds later, I was back up at the top of the pitch ready to finish my run, after having gone around the hooked gate. I was absolutely exhausted! I could hear the people all along the side of the course cheering for me. Meanwhile, our Canadian guys were all getting ready in the lodge and happened to gaze out to catch my looonnnngggg hike. It was quite the spectacle! I crossed the finish line with a time of 3 minutes, 21 seconds…putting me in 28th position, as two girls had not finished. This made for a serious battle all the way through the race.
After qualifying had wrapped up, Eric told me that he wanted me to know that the French were protesting my hike. He also said that they didn’t have a leg to stand on and that all it meant was that they felt very threatened by me. Honestly, it just made me want to beat them even more.
I had to start from the worst gate every in every heat. It was a significantly longer distance to get to the first corner from the far right gate than it was from the left side of the start. Our start coach, Brent Kehl, had collected a series of video shots of our starts throughout training and had thrown them into a computer program called Dartfish, which overlays the shots in order to allow for comparison from run to run. Thanks to this technology, I knew that my starts were pretty killer on this course. The first two features out of the gate were quite similar to those on the Olympic course at Cypress. I was the only girl pre-jumping the first feature, which means I was lifting my feet up and hopping before the take-off, so that I could get my skis back on the snow on the other side earlier and generate speed from the downhill. So I knew I had a shot at a good result, but I was also pretty discouraged by the fact that I would have tough heats all the way through. I was pretty down for a couple of hours, and then going up the chair right before the main event, one of my teammates was all fired-up and said “yeah, this is it! This is what I came to Japan for!” That triggered something in my brain and I went “good point. This is what it’s all about. This is going to be so much fun!” And suddenly my attitude had flipped and I was excited to go out and shred.
My first heat was a really tough one. I had Magda, the Swede who has been racing forever and has killer starts, but isn’t a very clean skier. I also had Gutenson, who is tied with me for 3rd in the overall standings and who is known for pushing and playing nasty out of the start. Japanese Noriko Fukashima was our 4th competitor. I got out of the start first and over the first couple of features out in front, but as I cut over to get on the line for the first corner, Magda pulled ahead and pinched me out. She cut right over against the gate so there was no room for me and I had to back off to get through. Gutenson took advantage of that and got by me on the left. They both scrubbed a bit of speed and took off on the first jump way left to set themselves up to safely make the really tough corner I was talking about earlier. I kept to right and just pointed it right off full speed, got way less air than the other two, and dived into the corner inside Gutenson to get by her. I got sucked way low on the exit of the turn, but pulled it off and just hung in behind Magda the rest of the way down.
The next heat was pretty similar, except it was some other chick instead of Gutenson who passed me, and the I passed her on the inside in the gnarly corner – same line as the first heat – and then Magda was holding me up so much on the bottom that I decided to go around her to win the heat. On to the semi-finals…
We faced off with Meryl Boulangeat of France and again, I was fastest out of the start but she got me going into the first turn. Magda and I were pretty even through it and she gave me a pretty hard push straight backwards to get herself out in front of me. I yelled a disapproving “Magda…” and decided I wasn’t going to let her beat me. I pulled the same move at the top of the pitch to get by Magda and made a good move of the big jump on the pitch as I came up on Meryl out in front. I had to get by her cause I was packing so much more heat and didn’t want to slow down before the long flat section. I yelled “inside” and she was good enough to leave some space and not pinch me out, partially because she’s a cool chick, but mainly because there’s a good chance it would end-up taking us both out at that speed. So the two of us advanced to the BIG FINAL together.
It wasn’t until I got into the start gate that I realized that the World’s #1 racer, Ophelie David, had already been eliminated. She had been beat by the burly Slovenian Sasa Faric and Austria’s Karin Huttary (ranked #2). I was first out of the start again and struggled to get over to the gate at the first corner, again, got passed by two girls, again, and then pulled my sick move onto the pitch, again. I can’t believe nobody caught on to it all day! Arch figures that their coaches were telling them about it but they were too scared they would blow out of the course if they hit it like I was. The lines did shift over a bit, but I just kept adjusting and going even further over. Risky, but it paid off! I started to get a solid lead by the bottom of the pitch, but then Karin got in my draft going into this massive double and gained a fair amount of ground on me. I knew I could not afford to make a single mistake. I stayed as low as I could across the flats, and held my tuck through three single rollers that people had been getting bucked off all day. My draft pulled her in tight as we hit the kicker into the finishing straight stretch. She pulled out to get by me, but I managed to hold the lead right through the finish. World Champion. My favorite part was being on the top of the podium with bib 28 on! I definitely earned that win.