Two years ago, when I learned that ten athletes from Shanghai University of Sport with no Nordic ski experience were going to join or ski team to learn to ski, I had no idea what to expect. Part of me was excited. I knew I had a lot to learn from these athletes about Chinese language and culture. Another part of me was nervous. I worried that adding 10 athletes to our tight-knit team of about 15 skiers would throw off the team dynamics that made UW Nordic feel like a family to me. I also worried that we would no longer be able to receive the attention and advice from our coaches that we all deserved.
Two years ago I could have never imagined what this experience would mean to me. Maybe I could have pictured myself cooking and eating hot pot with James, learning the Chinese words for my favorite vegetables, and running around shouting “xi lanhua!” (broccoli). Maybe I could have also imagined learning regional variations on my Chinese favorite cuss words with Andy. But there were a lot of things that surprised me about my experience skiing with the SUS athletes.
In retrospect, my fears of no longer receiving technique advice and coaching seem silly, because if anything, it was the opposite. I think back to one particular practice on a Wednesday in February. The team split into two groups: those excited and healthy enough to do intervals, and the those who preferred to ski easy and work on technique. I was feeling tired and chose the latter group along with several of the SUS skiers. Our goal for the day was to practice cornering on downhills, specifically right-hand turns. Conveniently, this was one of my weakest points as a skier. Having only recently started skiing, I got by on the strength and endurance I had built as a distance runner rather than the finesse and technique that come from years on skis. As such when, Coach Nathan asked me to demonstrate how I would ski our first corner, I was astonished and nervous. We had chosen a relatively easy corner to begin but it was a corner I had never skied particularly well before. Even though I wasn’t confident in my ability, I knew the SUS athletes looked up to me, regarding me as an experienced skier. I knew couldn’t let them down so I tried to appear confident and convince myself I could do it. I stood starting at the trail scouting out my route, took a deep breath, and took off toward the outside edge of the trail before cutting sharply in and skiing through the corner relatively gracefully. I smiled as I came to a stop and skied back toward my teammates, secretly quite proud of myself for how well I skied. That day, with every corner each athlete skied, I could see their improvement and an increase in their confidence. The confidence I could see in them boosted my own confidence as well.
I’ve always known that teaching is the best way to learn just about anything, but I’ve only recently come to understand just how powerful that can be. Being a mentor and a teammate to these athletes was so much more than I could have imagined, and I just hope their experience on this team was even half as meaningful as my own.
It was a sunny morning on January 26, and we participated in the relay race at Fraser. This competition made me very excited, because this is the first time that our SUS team has participated in the relay race. It is different from previous competitions. This relay race is 1.8km x 9 laps of skate skiing. There are three people in a team, one lap per person and then the next person. My teammates are Fredy and Dreak, we warm up together, and then carry our bags to the race venue. When we arrived at the venue, we saw that the women ’s relay race was about to start. Watching a tense and exciting game was really exciting. Maddy, Kat, and Ella were a very strong combination. They worked hard to make the game I see the blood boiling! Cowgirls are so cool! In the end they won first!
Okay, let's start our cowboys performance. I am the second player of the team and Dreak is the first player. When I saw him sliding towards me, my adrenaline soared and I went all out. Slippery, I can also see later that I tried my best on the first lap, because I was super slow LOL in the next two laps, and with Fredy's final sprint, we ended the relay race. But we did not leave, but gathered at the finish line to cheer for the last skier. After he crossed the finish line, the whole audience cheered him! I think this is the charm of sports!The team game feels different from that of the individual game. It's not so nervous, it's more exciting and happy! An unforgettable game!
The first time I felt the power of team working is in the Tetonia，1/10/2020. That's the first long distance race we attend，15classic skiing race. The weather makes the race become special and petty cold. I'm really afraid of cold. But that day I am not aware of it. When we ready to start，it began to snow，and it got bigger and bigger. The big snowflakes made us lose the direction. At that time I try to find the right track，and I heard Mei shout at me，"I can't see the track，the snow is so big". I'm ahead of her，and I shout"follow me，Mei，I can find the track". And then we skied together，when we met our coaches，Christi and Rachael，they said"good job，girls，work together". And then we know our did are right. After 5k，the snow stopped，Bur I feel pretty terrible，because my legs are so weaken. Mei said "follow me，Simona，we can do it". "Yes，I said" I just follow her，keep the same pace with her… When we finished the race，I feel very cold，and I realized the cold feeling disappear when we did the race. That's so amazing. When I follow her，I only think how to follow her，how to defeat the race. After I finished all the race，I try to recall this memory，I feel very happy，and it also make me so warm. That experience let me know the importance of team working. I think I will bring it to the career of my sport. Try to spread it with my team and my athletes. Try to let everyone had own good memory. Let them warm.
During the Thanksgiving camp in Leadville, the team had many interesting things to remember. The best memory for me is that I and the coaches have finished the 21km long loop. I was shocked and I felt funny and ridiculous. Because when I saw someone, I just blindly followed. Because I waxed my skis very late, when I finished waxing and was going to catch up with the SUS teammates, I couldn’t find them, but I saw the coaches across the street, I quickly caught up and joined their team.
I started skiing with the coaches. But I didn’t know it was 21 km and I really hoped to find my teammates after following the coaches. Afterward, I found out my SUS teammates didn’t participate in the 21 km loop. They practiced classic techniques in the streets of Leadville and returned home early to rest. The next day we still had a 5 km classic race.
Recalling the weather that day, it was very cold and the wind was very strong, like a blizzard. This is the first time I have skied this long a distance since I learned to ski and this was even farther than I have ever ran in the past. I didn’t prepare for such a long training time, I did not bring a water bag backpack. Earlier, Christi was always by my side and encouraged me, I just followed the pace of Christi. I had been trying hard to follow the big team. During the break, Ben, one of the UW skiers, approached me and handed me his water to let me drink and told me there was still a long way to go. The coaches and Ben always looked back at me, afraid I would get lost, encouraged me and asked about my physical condition. In the later period, I couldn’t keep my physical strength and fell behind, Ben let me ski in front of him, he followed behind me. He made me feel pressure behind me, I was afraid to reduce his speed, so I tried to go too fast and accidentally fell down when I increased the speed. Also Ben was tripped by me. Then I let Ben ski in front of me, he always stopped and waited for me when we are far apart. I said, “I am coming!” Ben turned around and said to me, “I know.” We kept going and met the coach who was waiting for us and we finished the 21 km together.
When I returned to the room to check the phone message, my teammates discussed me in the Nordic group, worried about where I went all morning. I felt guilty and made them worry about me. But I still think this team is very lovely and warm. This experience really made me realize the importance of communication.
Time flies, I have been here for 8months . But I still remember every happy moments with teammates, coaches in here ,especially the first camp in Nebraska. We stayed in Nebraska three days , everyday was amazing. The first day We driven about 5hours to three . it was really long for me , but not boring at all . We talked each other, watched the scenery on the rode. When we got there, there was a beautiful snowing lawn near our house . we did classic skiing, which was very important day for me . I leaned how to stride in that day. After training, we cooked together, had dinner together. It really helped team building . The second day , we did intervals uphill training ,which was very hard . Because the uphills are pretty steep, and with snowing,also we have to do 45min without stop. But everyone did their best to make it, I proud of them . In the afternoon, it was rest time ，but actually it was homework time for my American teammates, they had so many homework in college ， that’s different from Chinese college. In the night, I fished one of my goals in here. Arm wrestling with teammates :) I like arm wrestling when I was a little. In that time , my roommates were Nathan K, Trevor harry Fredy. It was fun to live with them for two nights. The third day , we did a combined race . We ran 3k and then rolled skiing 5k . For me the running part was nice , but the roller skiing part was terrible.I too nervous to use V2 . I used double pole whole race ，which was much slower than V2 . Also , in that downhill, it was super scary for me , I almost fall . But anyway, I finished the race . After race , we driven back to Laramie. From now to Review the past , it was impressive ， those moments, they will live in my heart forever
, thanks for my coaches ，teammates , everyone.
Madison Tinker and others of the University of Wyoming Ski Team