Annie Hart: The Quest for Best Dressed

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After 14 days of Kazakhstani living and top level World Junior and U23 racing, I am more convinced than ever that the key to moving American skiing forward lies in continuing, enlarging, and believing in the progress we’ve already made.  This involves not only getting our best athletes to Europe for racing, but also emulating European racing at home.  I don’t need convincing that in some aspects American ski culture always has been and always will be fundamentally different than European ski culture.  Due to our country’s vast size, diversity, and differing priorities, we cannot transpose European ski culture onto America.  It’s not a one size fits all ensemble, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t show up to the big ball looking fabulous.
We are already so much closer to winning best dressed on the international stage.  Bryan Fish led the US contingent to its across the board most successful championships in at least five years.  We had countries giving splits off of us.  Our onesies were the most coveted on the last day of trading and our cheering consistently the loudest throughout the week.  I had one competitor tell me that our team spirit “was the best” and our team “the most fun.”  And I think that sense of unity and togetherness directly translated to our great successes throughout the week.  We had a number of personal bests, two top 10s, more top 15s, and even more top 30s.  So what’s changed?
One, I think we have taken a real pride in not only our country but our clubs.  Club development is so pivotal to success, and our sizable country necessitates a strong club system.  Two, with more of our athletes competitive at an international level we are bringing more of our European experiences back to the United States.  My number one take away from the week is in top level racing, if you step off of the gas pedal for even one second, you aren’t hopping back on the caravan.  It’s uncomfortable and hard, but it’s how you get better and it’s how Katharine Ogden and Ben Saxton ended up with 6th place finishes.  Three, I believe we have come together and really owned our American uniqueness.  America is not Norway, but why would we try to be Norway if the goal is to be number one on the podium?  We don’t want to be the next Norway, but instead we want to be the only America.  And finally, we have started a following.  The National Nordic Foundation and the Drive for 25 has created a base of support that extends beyond nordic skiers and into the wider community.  Not everyone has to ski to help push American skiing to the next and top level, but the bigger the support base (both skiers and non skiers alike) the better and stronger the pyramid.
Despite these improvements, we can’t stop now.  We must continue pushing ourselves in the absence of Europeans to race like we do in Europe at home.  We must continue creating strong clubs that come together to create a stronger United States Ski Team.  And finally we must continue improving.  The most devastating thing that could happen to US skiing right now is complacency.  You don’t step into the start gate wanting anything but the victory (even if you would be excited with second), and we absolutely cannot forget that.  We’ve made great strides, but I know that as a country we can continue kicking a little harder and gliding a little further.
With the championships over, a group of us are continuing on to Slavic, Swiss, and Europa cups across five countries in five weeks.  Thank you to the National Nordic Foundation for making all of this possible, we truly wouldn’t be here without you!

 

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