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  • Tess Johnson

Kazakhstan and US Nationals

The last World Cup stop was in Kazakstan which was insane! I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be skiing in Kazakstan for a World Cup, but there I was. The country itself exceeded all of our expectations with great food and generous people. Horse is a delicacy there, and although I was hesitant to try the weird, purple looking meat, I ate some of a horse. We stayed in Almaty, the largest city in the country, and commuted about an hour into the gorgeous rocky mountains to ski. Before the event, the girls on my team and I explored the city. In that one day, I had some of the strangest, most interesting experiences at the Arasan Bathhouse and Green Bazaar market. Needless to say I will never forget my time in Almaty.

For me, the event was only mediocre. The venue was fairly flat with small moguls, which is not my favorite type of course. I finished 9th, and although yet again I thought I deserved to score higher, I was ultimately proud with how I skied. Duals day was cancelled due to extreme fog and dangerous conditions, so it was certainly an anti-climactic end to the World Cup tour. It was great, however, to see my teammate and best friend Jaelin Kauf finish 2nd on the tour and I am thrilled to finish 5th, my highest final World Cup rank yet. Unfortunately, our team came in second to Canada for the Nations Cup, a major team goal of our’s this year. Finishing 5th and 2nd in the team standings did fill me with pride, but mostly hunger. I know that I can catch the four girls ahead of me, and I know that we as a team can catch Canada. I’m looking forward to the opportunities to do so both in the prep season and next year’s tour!

After a week to recover at home (where unfortunately I got the flu), it was time for the last event of the season: US Nationals in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. It was really nice to have my Aunt from NYC there to cheer me on, and I was very satisfied with a 3rd in singles and 4th in duals. In the semi-final round for duals I crashed and hit my head, so unfortunately had to pull out for the bronze medal dual. Although I was initially upset to have to eject myself from the competition, I knew it was the safe thing to do, especially so late in the season with nothing to gain. Sometimes competing is about being smart, not tough. I was, however, extremely happy for my teammates Jaelin Kauf and Jesse Andringa for taking BOTH national titles.

When the season finally came to a close, I felt relieved from exhaustion, but I was mostly sad. I had so much fun with the girls on my team this year and I don’t want that to end. I know we have many fun years to come, but this season was extra special. Finding a good team dynamic in an individual sport really is not easy. When qualifying for events like World Champs, the Olympics and even World Cup starts, my teammates are my biggest competitors. But what we managed to do this year is turn that aspect into a positive. We’ve found success as a team because we thrive off each other’s individual victories. Skiing with them everyday has been not only way too fun, but has motivated us to be better. Watching Olivia Giaccio throw cork 10’s and Jaelin ski faster than the guys makes us better. Watching Avital Shimko and Morgan Schild work so hard in knee rehab makes us better. And simply having each other’s backs no matter the result is what has made us the best women’s team in the world.

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