Swimming with the shark

Have you ever swam over a mile in a lap pool? You know the feeling at the start, to think there are over 80 more lenghs coming, the water is cold, this will take forever? But then, towards the end, it gets so easy, and the last lap usually turns out to be the most enjoyable one of your entire swim…
Now imagine your 1mile+ swim with a hungry shark chasing you the entire time. That´s a professional snowboarding season. The shark is injury.
I still cannot believe the season is coming to its end, one more major FIS competition in Spain (serious shark danger) and 2 fun events in Breckenridge (less shark warning) before the last laps come up, the most enjoyable ones. Slush. Sunshine. Friends. Learning tricks. Maybe get some video shots. Hit exactly what you want to hit, no pressure to ride a shitty jump shaved out of solid ice at 8.30am in a storm because some person chose to put it on a contest schedule like that.
Even though I didnt get the individually best results of my life, it has so far been one of the best snowboard seasons of my life. Because the shark didn´t get me.
I managed to learn new tricks while keeping a distance, managed to do all events despite storms, snow, ice and fog, finished the TTR/WST season as overall 3rd (personal best so far), and only had to say „no“ once – at the World Champs in Quebec. Even though I was told by the German federation to have disappointed them, I see my „no“ as a win. The shark was too close. I felt it. Reacted on it. Stayed healthy. Won in the long run.
A German saying says to not „praise the day before night-time“, so I won´t write more about my personal swim with the shark before overcoming the last upcoming challenge in Spain….
But what I want to add is, that it didnt always feel like this. Sure it might be the shark that bit me multiple times, that made me realize it is always there. But more outstanding is the fact, that contests have changed. Everything has gotten bigger, crazier, more consequential. When courses are built perfect, the bigger-crazier-more-consequential-factor is something just visible and admirable to the spectators, but not much noticeable for the rider on the course. Most times though, courses aren´t perfect. Despite shitty jump/jib-constructions, the weather itself creates enough of a ever-changing component to make a perfect course horrible – with just a few centimeters of slow snow, some wind-gusts or a cold night turning the previous day´s happy slush into death-ice.
But the show must go on. And it will, no matter what.
It´s great that slopestyle gets more and more TV attention. But with TV come exact TV times, contest schedules get planned out to the minute and riders find themselves in the start gate knowing they drop in for this run relaying on their faith and luck instead of just skill and knowledge. When I started competing, we had „weather days“, days that allowed for the event to be pushed to a different day in case the weather didn´t cooperate. X Games with the tightest TV schedule of all has never had weather days since I know it, FIS world cup and Dew Tour are following. Many WST events used to have weather days, but only very few still keep them, such as Stylewars in Australia.
According to Kristi Leskinen´s study, a huge majority of injuries in snowboard/ski athletes happens in competitions, mostly because of „not-perfect-conditions“.
How many times do we get to an event and the course isn´t even completely built, then it´s built wrong, they fix it everyday until for contest day it´s halfways decent. So often you only get a hand full of runs on the actual final course before you are expected to do a mindblowing contest run when before all you may have done is sketchy straight airs.
Especially for us women it´s often like that. At the US Open this year, Kjersti, Sarka and I all three hadn´t even hit the last jump until the contest day. Mostly because the 2nd jump was so bad (Helene Olafsen tore her ACL landing without even crashing – because the landing was so flat!). Just last week at the Czech World Cup lots of girls hadn´t done anything but straight airs until contest day because of a sheer ice inrun and takoff. At the December Dew Tour on 2 out of 3 practice days we couldnt hit any jumps because of slow fresh snow and not enough speed. Cheryl Maas tried it anyways and blew out her knee. I don´t even want to start summing up all the injuries from the insane World Champs in Quebec, too many broken hands and arms, bruised heels and even a broken back. But the worst story of all is that one of skier Emilia Wint, who qualified with incredible runs for the Dew Tour final, which happened on a snowy day, with clearly not enough speed for the jumps. She did a podium-worthy finals run, somehow scraped together the speed – but a TV camera missed a shot, so she had to re-do her run, when she should have been done already.On her extra run, she tucked into the last jump but still didnt get the speed and blew out her knee. Her season ended right there.

She shouldn´t have jumped the last jump? In the middle of a run, therere less than 2 seconds to make that decision. She is one of the best skiers out there. She could have won the event. She wanted to win the event.
There is so much passion in such a moment, so much adrenaline, so much will and hope. You´re in the end of a run, in the end of your swim, so close to the shark, fearfully laughing in his face, you see the finish line and prepare for the short joy of the last lap.

I wished we could team up and feed the shark weather days instead of ACLs and bones. I also heard finishing courses before the first scheduled practice and individually testing them early by reliable people makes the shark friendlier. He likes steep, long landings and speed.

I like competing, but it shouldn´t feel like a strategic survival game. One day, that event will come around, where us girls can really ride to our full potential, do the tricks we know we are capable of, and not be only limited to those, that the semi-ok course allows us to do.

I´m off to Spain soon. Who knows. As unlikely as it is, maybe that´ll be that one event. There is so much passion. Will. Hope. You´re in the end of your season, the end of your swim, you see the finish line and prepare for the short joy of the last lap.

Posted on by Silvia Posted in Diary

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