The highest bar is the hardest to hurdle.

If you haven’t watched tonight’s relay yet — you should.  It’s yet another seat-of-your-pants, pedal-to-the-medal (!) Olympic ski race with drama, surprises and a razor-thin margin of victory.

But if you’re watching just to see a possible American medal — spoiler alert — it doesn’t happen.  Team USA skied a helluva race, but came up short.

The hype around this relay race got a little heavy.  Yes, we had a shot.  But the world is filled with great teams and the Olympics brings out the very best in everyone.  (Do you think that OAR didn’t have something to prove tonight?)

My only request is that you put tonight into context.  A few years ago — especially on the women’s side — the USA was strictly back of the pack.  The idea of World Cup points, nevermind a possible Olympic medal was a daydream.  Then Kikkan came along and a great coaching staff gelled.  Sophie showed up.  Jessie made herself known.  Sadie.  Ida.  People like Liz Arky finally tackled World Cup basics like a waxing truck.  (Until this year, our waxing resources were the same as the Freeport Ski Team at the Maine Class C State Meet.)

And the next thing you know, we’ve got a team fighting for podiums and medals.  It’s a remarkable achievement.  And the good news?  I photographed the World Junior/U23 Championships last year and we’ve got some kickass kids coming through the pipeline.   And this year’s WJC/U23 team performed even better than last year’s team.

So how do we clear that final bar?  It won’t happen with letters to FasterSkier about team selection, race order or criticizing this leg or that leg.  That’s a colossal waste of time and gets exactly zero accomplished.  Want to make a difference?  Donate money to the NNF.  Work with your regional division like NENSA or CXC. Sponsor an athlete (Many of our athletes spend over $25k a year on travel).  Sponsor a team.  Renew your USSA membership.  Ask the USSA about their budget priorities and nordic funding plans.  Better yet, one of the most pressing needs in the ski community is middle and high school age coaches.  Take a coaching course and convince some kids to slap ’em on.

Because that’s how we become a real skiing nation.

And clear that final bar.

The mass start.  I picked this location because when the athletes were in the start area, you could see the Olympic rings in the biathlon stadium.  And then a giant truck drove by…
Sophie Caldwell (USA)
Sadie Bjornsen (USA)
I mentioned this in a tweet earlier tonight, if Charlotte Kalla doesn’t go on the list of “greatest clutch athletes of all time” list, there’s something wrong.  WOW — what a relay leg.
Breck’s Mom (USA)
Jessie Diggins (USA)
Team USA post-race hug.
This shot was from my remote camera.  I was half-a-stadium away and the Swedish team was posing for Joel Marklund.  (Swedish photographer)  This makes up for him getting in my remote shots last year.
Another remote shot.  My position was blocked by athletes running out to see their teammates.
Not sure who the older gentleman is, but the Euro press went nuts.

10 thoughts on “The highest bar is the hardest to hurdle.

  1. It’s the Royal King of Sweden in the middle of the Swedish relay team 😀

    As a Swede (expecting Sweden, Finland and Norway to be in the lead of XC skiing) I am very sure that USA has become the most challenging nation – it’s an incredible journey filled with hard work and team building, as it looks to me! Very impressive!!!!!

    Kikkan Randall started it and Jessie Diggins has established that the US nordic ski team is a force to be reckoned with!

  2. Amen to your suggestions on how to improve our results. It takes a village, one village at a time, one club at a time! Thanks, Craig Ward, Aspen

      1. Hey small world! Speaking of Joanie…Bowdoin ’79 here! Great post by the way. It was a privilege to see all this come together in person this year at the WC in Seefeld. Sophie was awesome. Jessie’s race was downright amazing!

  3. A tremendous effort from a great group of skiers. They will always be winners in my mind. You are right on, Steve. The more we support Nordic skiing through USSA, NNF and regional divisions, the more success we will have.

  4. Steve, so awesome! Love your pictures. You could not have said it more clearly what the next steps should be and where we have arrived. We are clearly progressing in the USA and like you, I like constructive feedback and not negative criticism. But the latter requires less creativity so that’s why some people make it their first choice.

    Gunther Kern, Waltham, MA

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