Monday, December 14, 2009

Take a hike!

Since "hiking" has been Scott's favorite activity this weekend, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the matter. First, the daily report... Scott had another blazing run today, except for a 5 second hike to get back into the course. Neither of us is particularly concerned at this point, as this race series was to be prep for Canada. Once again Scott attacked hard on the fast line. However, the fast line leaves little margin for error and he paid big. That's OK though, as he knows what he did and he's gradually getting the touch and timing back.

Now let's discuss hiking. When a racer misses a gate, or flies out of the race course, in a tech (Slalom or Giant Slalom) event, he has the option of pulling off to the side of the course and quiting, or climbing back up to retake the missed gate and continuing on course. In competition most racers don't bother hiking, especially in the second run of the race. However, Scott is not like most guys.

Our team rule is that athletes "hike" whenever they miss a gate, whether in training or competition -- whether in Slalom or Giant Slalom. My philosophy is that not doing so fosters a defeatist attitude. It creates athletes who bail out whenever the going gets tough. If an athlete knows that he/she will have to hike if a gate is missed, the athlete will try to save the turn, get creative, make the gate. ANYTHING to avoid a high stress, anaerobic, uphill hike! I can't tell you how many times I've watched Scott save a turn. Often those runs have been the winning runs in a race.

When we were at the Topolino Shootout three years ago, where the top 20 boys competed for one spot on the Children's World Championship team, Scott made an interesting comment during the practice day. As we rode the chairlift he watched athlete after athlete abandon the course when they got a little off-line or late. Finally he said, "These guys are going to lose, they're all quitters." Scott won 5 of the 6 races the next two days. None of his runs was letter perfect, but he knew how to hang on.

One of the best moments in our sport was during the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City. Bode Miller had already medaled twice and become an American icon. In his final event, Slalom, he entered the second run leading the field. True to his nature he never let off the throttle, pushing the limits of his ability. He missed a gate, and hiked back up even though he had no chance of placing. He reentered the course and missed another gate. He hiked again. Bode hiked three times that run, but finished. I will always admire him for that day -- better than any medal!

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