Steps for the Future
By Tanner Visnick
Despite financial difficulties, the United States Telemark Ski Team has succeeded in producing athletes that are competitive on the international level. Our team may lack funding, but certainly doesn’t lack support. While traveling throughout Norway this season, I noticed certain distinct differences between how the Europeans train and how we train, and I believe that with a few changes we can be as competitive as any other team in the world.
The most notable difference is their approach towards shorter races. With the introduction of the Parallel Sprint several years ago, courses are becoming increasingly shorter, with most runs around 50 seconds or less. When I first began training in Steamboat three years ago, I focused mainly on my endurance, which has prepared me very well for long Classic races with lots of skating; however, I do believe that the next step is to focus more on explosiveness and power in order to better compete with the Europeans in Sprint Classic races and Parallels. Even though I cannot speak on behalf of the entire team, we have a history of doing better in longer races than shorter. In fact, no US man has advanced out of the round of 16, even though Cory, Tommy, Charlie, Jeff, and I have had our fair share of top 10 finishes in other disciplines.
One thing I noticed was that all of the top racers were able to change their intensity level very quickly in shorter distances. While watching the Parallel, all of the top men were skating with an even greater intensity than they were in the Sprint, which is usually only a few seconds longer. Their skiing was different as well. All of the racers who were doing well in the Parallel were getting a lot more lateral acceleration between turns and skiing more aggressive than in the Sprint and Classic. It was incredible watching them turn up the dial in a heartbeat and ski with an intensity bordering on destruction. In the past, I could never understand how I could ski poorly and get in the top 15 in Classic, and skiing well and barely make the top 20 in the Sprint and Parallel. That is because I ski with relatively the same intensity, in the GS portion, in all races. Other US racers are much better at changing their intensity than I am, but the Europeans are definitely ahead of us, which is why we struggle in shorter distances.
Before the World Cup season began, I thought that my strength was in the skate section. I trained with the High School Nordic Team and did fairly well at competitions. However, skating turned out to be my weakest element, as I was one of the slowest skaters on the circuit in Europe. I think this was partly because I didn’t train much on Telemark gear. Since I was Nordic skiing several times a week, I didn’t find it necessary to train much on my heavy GS skis. In doing this I lost a lot of power in the skate and was unable to turn up the intensity immediately in a short skate. Even though training opportunities are limited for many team members, it is important whenever possible to focus on short, explosive intervals whenever skating. Another important thing to focus on is getting up to speed as fast as possible. The top Sprint and Parallel racers were able to get up to full speed one stroke out of the rap, while it took me several strokes.
With World Championships coming up next year in Steamboat, I believe our team can put on a good show, if we focus on certain elements in our skiing. Without the resources of many of the larger European teams, we have to be creative in our training and preparation because most team members lack the luxury of extensive training opportunities. We are headed in the right direction, and next year’s World Championships is the perfect opportunity to prove so.