It has been an exciting year, which began on April 16, 2005, when I arrived in Tallinn to begin physical training and in hopes of finding personal sponsors. With the five months spent in Eesti, it was somewhat sucessful. I was able to be in contact with Eesti Suusaliit, taking part in various events and very pleased with their encouragment. I had a great physical trainer, Tarmo Tiits, who began from the basics of strong physical development, therefore understanding my personal needs for alpine skiing, which allowed me to be prepared for the 2005-2006 ski season. I was also fortunate to work with Lauri Rannama and Dr. Allan Oolo for support, physical relief of training and guidance. I received outstanding mental support in my discussions with Indrek Pertelson.
Being in Eesti was wonderful. I had many first-time experiences like Jaanipäev, visiting where my grandparents lived, and bettering my Estonian. I learned how to progress in finding sponsors and build a stronger support system which in turn reflected in my skiing. With three major on-snow training camps during the summer in Switzerland, before returning to North America for the race season I felt like skiing began to fall into place. I skied technically strong and my psychological mind-set was getting better. The atmosphere was superb and I look forward to returning for more hard work in Eesti.
The start of the race season began in Colorado, USA which went normally. Once December rolled around, I had some difficulties finishing but then I was able to put things back together in January in time to depart for Europe. I took part in my first World Cup starts in Ofterswang, Germany. In the world of alpine skiing the "white circus" is known to be a very enjoyable place when all goes well. For many skiers, the first step into the real competition is always an eye opener. I took the opportuntiy to adjust to the surroundings, allow the excitement of the event to soak in and that would allow me to ski well. I was content with my first World Cup starts and especially with being able to be around the best skiers.
In hindsight the World Cup races were a preparation for the XX Winter Olympic Games in Turin, especially due to the size of the crowd and the media. Knowing that all the top alpine skiers were going to the Olympics with experience which I did not have made it clear to me why an athlete's first Olympics can be overwhelming. I arrived at the Olympic village in Sestiere, which would be called a base for the next 2 weeks. I was very thrilled to finally be there and meet the Estonian team. I do recall, though, that my first night in the Olympic village it was cold. Therefore, the next morning I went straight to the store to buy a warm duvet so I could actully get some sleep. Having the chance to see other sports while at the Olympics was exceptional, the way each sport has its own formalities, how every athlete performs under pressure, the pure competition atmosphere.
One of the most unforgettable experiences was the opening ceremonies. I then realized the emotion of the games, the differences between each person and nation, how every athlete, an Olympic medalist or not, has the honour to represent one's nation. This was an opportunity to show the world that these games celebrate much more than your willingness to work hard, ability to compete at a high level but also be proud of Eesti and presenting the nation all the time to the rest of the world. I also clearly recall when Kristina Smigun won the first medal for Eesti and every medal that followed. That was, and is, pure joy!
As the days closed to the Slalom and Giant Slalom race I felt at ease being in Sestiere. I had visited the area during the summer and knew what I would be looking at when race day came. The race slopes were good and the ever-changing weather did not play as much havoc during the technical (slalom and giant slalom) alpine events but the snow conditions were extremely difficult. I was calm after my first slalom run, since all season I had had difficulties finishing in that particular event, knowing that it was not my strongest event. There was a little disappointment on the day of the Giant Slalom since I felt in good form during offical training, but was not completely happy with my finish. But I could still walk away from the Olympics having performed well and with the desires of new goals for the future.
I am very grateful for all of the surprising numbers of Estonians who posted positive comments of encouragement on the internet, wishing me well at the Olympic Games.
As the winter season comes to an end I greatly value the assistance of my sponsors - KuuSport, VellendTech, Apogee, Fischer and Excel. I also greatly appreciate the financial support received from Canadian Estonians. Most importantly, I thank my family and taat (grandfather) foremost for all their support and encouragement, as all of what I do with joy and passion is possible because of them. They have given me opportunities which were and are only dreamt about. I am also inspired by my team in Eesti. Although it is a small team, I have been able to make physical gains, have proper physiotherapy/trigenics, been able to become mentally strong and have their guidance which is significant to the success of any athlete wanting to reach beyond their capabilities. I am also thankful to Eesti Suusaliit and Eesti Olümpia Komitee that an alpine team was sent to the Olympics. I hope that this is the start of the building blocks of the future of Estonian alpine skiing.
Now it’s time to get back to work for a successful 2006-2007 alpine winter season.
Wishing everyone an enjoyable summer.
Looking back on the past year (3)