After Hoydalsmo we drove to Falun, Sweden for another weekend of Continental Cups. Falun is the site of this year's Nordic World Championships so it was great to be able to get some jumps on the hills and to ski the trails. The venue is coming along very nicely and they look to be almost finished. We arrived on Monday night in Falun after about 10 hours of traveling. When we got there we went for a short run from the hotel to the cross country and ski jumping stadiums. It was only about 5 PM but it was pitch black out. I guess that's what I get for being this far North! Throughout the week we were able to get a couple of jump sessions under our belt and went on some great cross country skis. On Saturday we had the team competition. I was paired with Colin Delaney. We unfortunately didn't have a great result but had a fun time competing together. The following day was an individual competition. I was feeling good and confident, but couldn't put a solid competition jump together. I skied a great cross country race, but was unable to score any points for the weekend. I was pretty disappointed with the results but I was looking forward to the following weekend of competitions in Planica, Slovenia.
After Sunday's race in Falun, we drove through the night to get on a boat that would take us to Germany and then had another drive from northern Germany to Munich. The total travel time was almost 24 hours. I was really happy to get to Munich and sleep in a comfy bed. The next morning we went to the airport and picked up 2 more athletes, Somer Schrock and Ben Loomis. Both of them were named to the World Junior Championship team. We then drove about 3 more hours to Planica. When we arrived, there was hardly any snow. Luckily the hill crew had made enough snow so the ski jumps were in good condition. However, finding a good place to cross country ski was a little more difficult. One of the days we drove to Tarvisio, Italy to ski.
The weekend in Planica had its ups and downs. Once again I wasn't able to jump to my full potential and started Saturday's race in 45th place, almost 1:30 out of 30th(points). Knowing I had to ski my butt off to be able to ski on Sunday, I gave it my all. I skied a great race, turning in the 6th fastest time, and finishing 32 just 13 seconds out of 30th. It was a hard pill to swallow but I was also happy for my teammate Jasper Good who was 30th. It was his first COC points of his career and a big step in the right direction for him. The next day I sat out of the competition so Ben Loomis and Somer Schrock could compete. It was important for them to get an international race under their belt before heading off to World Juniors. It was probably good for me to take a step back and take a break from competing. Watching my teammates compete was really fun and I had a great time cheering them on, especially Jasper. Once again Jasper put himself in contention for points. He had another amazing day of jumping and racing, finishing in 28th. I like to think that my screaming and cheering for him on the side of the course had something to do with it. It was really inspiring for me to watch him have such a successful weekend.
Over the next couple days, the team parted ways. Colin and I drove to Predazzo, Italy for the next World Cup, and the rest of the team drove to Munich to fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan for World Juniors. Colin and I arrived in Predazzo on Monday night and met up with the World Cup team. I was really excited to be able to compete on the World Cup. During the week I went on some great cross country skis with the team. Predazzo has some of the best trails I have ever skied. Friday was the first of three competitions and I was selected to ski. Unfortunately, I had a little trouble on the jump. During my first jump on the hill I crashed. Luckily I was ok, but I ended up breaking one of my skis. After the crash I was pretty flustered and it really effected the rest of my jumping. My competition jump was not great and I started the race almost 3 minutes behind the leader. I skied an ok race but only moved up a couple spots. This was not a step in the right direction and I was very frustrated. The following day was another 2 person team event. Once again Colin and I were a pair. I had a hard time on both ends. Jumping didn't go well, and I did not feel great during the race. It was tough weekend but it was good for me to ski with the best in the world and get some experience.
After Predazzo, I returned to Planica with Adam, Taylor, and Colin for a week of training. While I was in Italy, Planica had gotten a lot of new snow and it made cross country training much easier. However, the ski jumps were not prepared to jump so we drove about 30 minutes to Kranj for jump training. My goal for the week was to make some changes in my jumping and I did just that. I was really happy with the progress I made.
Now I am in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria preparing for the upcoming COC. I have been to Ramsau only 2 other times and it is one of my favorite places in Europe. I have been here one day and already don't want to leave. Yesterday I went for a long easy ski from our hotel into town and to the ski jumps and back. Today we are planning on doing an interval session in the morning and then hoping to get some jump training in sometime in the afternoon. I will keep you posted on my training this week and the competition this upcoming weekend.
Hi! My name is Michael Ward. I am a 23 year old from Aspen, CO now living in Park City, UT to continue my career as a Nordic Combined athlete. I am on the 2015-16 US Nordic Combined Team and am honored to live and train with the best in the world.