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The Zen of Competition

by jim moran

The year was 1997, and I was in the lovely country of Japan for my first time ever. It was time for the World Championship, and they wanted to have the competition on the same course where the Olympics would be held the next year.

Japan is a beautiful country. It seems that they are much more concerned with keeping the wilderness separate from the villages. This is probably because they seem to have very little countryside left to develop. In the U.S. we have plenty of land and it seems that money makes the country run. My focus was on the competition so I found it hard to give a ton of attention to the country. I will tell you that the orthodontic system is not as good as ours. I would see a beautiful Japanese lady walking toward me-then she would open her mouth. The interest was then lost.

The World Championships are exactly like the Olympics in that the five best men and women from each country can compete. They can be split up, two men and three women in either direction, depending on who ranks higher. The spectators are more abundant than typical competitions, and the event takes place every two years rather than four. The other similarity is the pressure. At the Olympics, a very large percentage of the world is watching. That will increase personal desire in some, and stress in others. I personally like when that happens because the athlete is pushed to the edge of his or her ability.

It's humid in Japan, so the course was icy. It was steep, but a bit less steep than Deer Valley's Olympic course. The coarse was icy, but my original home was Stowe, Vermont. If you were wondering if there is ice on the East Coast, just remind yourself of where the humidity is, and the answer will be yes.

With moguls, like everything else in life, I think you have to focus on the obstacles in your way. My problem on this course was with the moguls right in front of the bottom air. The majority of the competitors were slowing down for the air, and the bumps were bigger than usual because of it.

I started with myh usual pre competition routine. I decided that I would simply be direct through this area so that I would not get in the back seat (on the tails of your skies). If you do this correctly, it can be like a form of meditation. At the same time, I would also think about the physical dimensions of the course, and visualize myself skiing perfectly so that I would be prepared when it came. My final preparation was to stomp my feet about five minutes beforehand to increase the blood flow to my legs. I would then relax, realizing that there was nothing more to do but be confident and perform.

"3, 2, 1, go" the starter said. I was off and starting to fall into the zone. The zone is the area an athlete will enter when everything is going perfectly and seems simple. I launched off of the top air and threw my signature helicopter ironcross. I stuck it, skiing the middle of the course perfectly. I came to my typical problem spot; being direct worked perfectly.

I launched the bottom air, throwing a very nice triple twister-but I forgot a very important piece of the puzzle. Being direct made me a bit faster, and going faster made me fly a tiny bit further. I popped out of the zone as I impacted the new landing area. I tried to fix the small mistake of being in the back seat on the first bump, but in the World Championships, a small mistake could cost you the gold.

Other than that, I skied the bottom perfectly, then looked at the scoreboard to wait for the results. At the time, it showed me ranked third. But by the end of the competition I was ranked sixth.

I was obviously disappointed, but life goes on. They decided to give an award to the top seven men and seven women. It was a nice gesture, but I am a believer that even second place is losing. They gave me this really cool Nagano World Championship baseball hat with all of the collector's pins, and countdown pins on it. I guess it is very valuable. I love the sentimental value, so because of that I will never sell it.

Unless you got a nice, crisp hundski. Peace out