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.

It’s official.

Accreditation-1-EditWhile I’ve (obviously) been planning this trip for a while, it wasn’t “official” until my credentials arrived this morning.  (Long story.  The good news is that it was spelled right.)

Truly looking forward to this trip.  My assignment in Pyeongchang is to shoot all the nordic events — a US cross-country team with a chance of making history, biathlon with Americans defending World Championship gold and silver as well as nordic combined / jumping teams that could provide a few surprises.

On a more personal level, it’s incredible to think that I’ve known & photographed many of these athletes for decades through coaching here in Maine, my work with the New England Nordic Ski Association, the National Nordic Foundation and L.L.Bean’s U.S. Ski Team partnership.  It’s a privilege to be part of their Olympic journey.

Out of respect for the people who are helping to make this trip happen (and fear of getting tangled in the IOC’s considerable rules governing photographs), I won’t be posting to during the Olympics.  At this point, here’s where you can follow along :

  • – This site will have full coverage of all the nordic races.
  • Alaska Pacific University – I’m helping them with coverage of their athletes.  They’re planning frequent email / social blasts.
  • Here on the blog.   I’ll publish additional photos, some behind the scenes material and — with any luck — alpine, freestyle and other events that I hope to shoot.  (flyingpointroad’s chief meteorologist highly recommends the Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe.)
  • Occasionally to the @flyingpoint instagram and twitter accounts.

Some of you know that one of my first jobs was as a photo stringer for the Lewiston Sun Journal here in Maine.  Really cool to add the Olympics to that resume.

“Any interest in shooting the Olympics for us?”

And with that question from FasterSkier editor, Alex Kochon on June 30th, this next adventure began.

To be honest, the idea of going to South Korea had come up in an earlier conversation.  Tom Kelly, the venerable press officer of the U.S. Ski Team had mentioned earlier in the Spring that he might be able find an extra “EP” credential — the prized photo pass — if I thought I’d like to shoot the events.  The normal procedure requires an application two years prior to Opening Ceremonies, but Tom is part magician and thought he could expedite the process.  I was in the middle of a work project and never followed-up on the offer.

So it was an easy decision when Alex reached out.  Turns out it was the same pass that Tom floated earlier.  I’d be responsible for shooting all the cross-country, biathlon and nordic combined races for Fasterskier.  I’d go as part of a three person team — Jason Albert and Chelsea Little.  Jason is best known for his fantastic Nordic Nation podcast.  And Chelsea has been part of Fasterskier for as long as I can remember.  Now a doctoral candidate in Switzerland, she’s has also become one of the most knowledgeable writers on PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) and doping in sport.

On my end, I’d need to clear it with a few folks.  February is a busy time across my assorted responsibilities.  But as Stephen Kircher – the CEO of Boyne Resorts told me — “Once in a lifetime opportunities don’t come around too often.”

So it’s off to PyeongChang in February.  In the meantime, I’ll keep this blog — somehow I think this will be a process worth remembering.

Mass Start 50k Championships
Start of Men’s 50k at 2015 U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships