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  • Writer's pictureTess Johnson

Isolation Contemplation: 4 Things I Learned This Season

Hello quarantine people! It's a depressing time in the world right now, and I hope everyone is staying healthy and doing their part to flatten the curve of this deadly virus - we simply have to stay home if we want life to go back to normal! I'm currently locked up in the basement of my house quarantining myself from everyone and everything, including my family, for fourteen days since I was recently in Europe. I'm currently on day ten, and while it's proving to be a great challenge for my mental health, I know that this too shall pass.

Since I haven't written a blog in a few months and there is so much to share, I thought I'd write about the 4 main things I learned from the World Cup Tour this year:

1. Bringing a new trick to competition is friggin' hard! Although I didn't compete a 360-mute grab in duals, I did in every singles event except one since I last wrote to you guys. Sometimes it paid off and sometimes it didn't. It was especially hard to accept the times when I would have made the super final if I had grabbed it a little better, or maybe if I didn't throw the grab at all and instead executed a straight-360 without error. It's easy to think of all the 'what if' scenarios when you're taking a risk. At the end of the day, though, it was rewarding to know that I WAS taking a risk, and it will make me a better skier. Not to mention, nothing felt better than when I nailed it in my finals run in Calgary. That run earned me an 8th place, and while a podium would have been the cherry on top, I am extremely proud of that performance. This experience of bringing a higher DD (degree of difficulty) trick to competition has given me a newfound appreciation for all the women in mogul skiing who push themselves and the sport with tougher tricks. Perrine Laffont (FRA) winning nearly every event with a cork 720, Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) doing grabs on both jumps, and Hannah Soar (USA) bringing a new trick package to every event is inspiring. These women are changing the sport for the better, and I'm proud be a small part of the movement.

2. Siberia (tied with Japan) is my favorite place on tour. After the events in Japan and Kazakstan, I flew to Siberia on a charter flight with the rest of the World Cup Tour. We had to have our temperatures taken daily because of the coronavirus, but unlike our circumstances today, that didn't stop us from exploring! The event was in Krasnoyarsk, the capital of Siberia and the geographical center of Russia. I didn't know what to expect, but quite frankly, I wasn't expecting anything special. I was stunningly surprised! Downtown Krasnoyarsk is uniquely trendy and everyone was kind and welcoming. The event had local volunteers designated for each team and we lucked out with Natalia. She showed us around the city taking us to authentic stores, beautiful viewpoints and delicious restaurants. My teammates Jaelin, Hannah and I all got funky jackets from a thrift shop, and Kalman Heims spontaneously got a Euro-style haircut that we chose for him. Natalia explained to us that although Russians seem cold and hard from a distance, they are friends for life once you get to know them.

The venue was a dream - it reminded me of the Olympic site in Pyeongchang with a pristine course and breathtaking sight from the top. On contest day, it was -11 degrees and exactly what you'd imagine Siberia to be: the entire city was colored pink and orange with the moon hanging just above the horizon. The crowd was remarkably enthusiastic, and despite the bitter cold, they stayed until the very end of awards cheering and waving flags from all countries. I got 6th that night, and it was one of the most brilliant, memorable competition days I've had.

3. Coming short of my expectations is one of the toughest mental battles I've had to fight. I dealt with this all season, and it stemmed from the fact that I didn't get any podiums. After getting three podiums the season before, it was a tough pill to swallow, especially since I know my best skiing is worthy of a podium. It didn't happen this year, though, and that's okay. At times I actually did my best skiing to date, and while I'm proud of that, in a way it made it harder to accept that I wasn't getting the results I yearned for. The women on the World Cup Tour this year were the best they've ever been, and some days I just got beat. That's painful for me to admit, but it's true. Getting beat, however, made me a better skier and will continue to throughout the rest of my career. Getting beat opened my eyes to the reality that I wasn't skiing fearlessly 100% of the time and...

4. ...skiing fearlessly is KEY - it's what enables me to ski with joy. I skied fearlessly when I beat world number one Perrine Laffont head to head in front of a home crowd of almost 10,000 people in Deer Valley. She was undefeated at the time, but I wasn't thinking about anything else except skiing my heart out, and I did. I skied the best and fastest I ever have, and that run will always be major highlight in my career. Skiing without doubt or worry allows me to be completely present, and that's when I ski my best. Being in the present means focusing on the process, not the outcome, and that's something I've struggled with since entering my very first competition when I was eight years old. Being in the present means replacing unhealthy comparisons with aiming my attention to what I can control. It's only effective, however, if I can do it consistently, and that is the ultimate goal. I'm almost frustrated as I type this because these are lessons that I've learned over and over again, but being reminded of exactly how I can succeed elevates my potential and ignites a fiercer flame of ambition.

The abrupt end to the season with three cancelled events due to COVID-19 was heartbreaking. I was finally back in my groove and ready to finish the season on my highest, most powerful note yet, but alas, this virus is bigger than all of us. I'm grateful for the many valuable lessons I learned this year, and I'm looking forward to taking this knowledge into my training and starting the prep season with a bang - hopefully sooner rather than later!

Stay healthy and wash your hands! We are all in this together.

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