Friday, January 10, 2014

Finding Her Way Back

As Lindsey takes a moment of pause to figure out her next steps towards the future, I will take a pause to reflect on one of our past adventures.  As the ski season goes on without Lindsey, I know it’s hard for her to imagine a life without skiing.  That’s why I want to remember a place far from any chairlifts or snow:  Venice, Italy. 
Two years ago, Lindsey had just finished one of my favorite races in Cortina, Italy with her 47th win.  About a two and a half hour car ride from Cortina, we packed our bags and said goodbye to the Dolomites.
After missing our turn off and getting lost, we drove through small streets and neighborhoods until we finally reached the bridge into Venice. It was dark by the time we got there, the reflection of the street lamps onto the water lit up the city and in the distance you could see the boats floating in the water.  We parked our car and got out with our bags having no clue where to go from there.  I looked to Lindsey who is always steering me in the right direction, but this time, she was looking to me.  I think Lindsey hadn’t felt the feeling of being lost since she first came to Europe.
We looked around and followed the flow of people all going in the direction of the water.  We asked around and decided to splurge on a private taxi since it was dark and because we had no idea where to go.  It didn’t take long to find. We went out on the dock, knocked on the door and an older Venetian man energetically took our bags, and knew exactly which hotel we were talking about and helped us into the boat.
“Lindsey, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” I said as the driver untied us and we drifted slowly into the canals of the city.  Lindsey and I sat with our heads sticking out of the window watching it all go by.  We weaved through unnamed streets in the dark water with the moon and stars above us. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.   It was a sight to see the Venetian man steer the boat with precision around the tight corners of the canal streets. 
We cleaned up and went out to dinner at a small trattoria the concierge suggested where the locals eat.  We went through streets of Gucci, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, and Cartier mixed with gelataria’s, mask shops, shoes and purses.  Somewhere along all the shoes and gelato we got lost. We couldn’t find the restaurant to save our lives.  Venice is built around the water systems which makes the city a sort of a labyrinth. 
 Finally after giving up we walked to find any restaurant that was open and guess what we found? The trattoria.  It was right next to the Ponte di Rialto. We drank wine with risotto, gnocchi and Tiramisu. 
The next morning we woke up early, had some cappuccinos and went to explore the city.
While waiting for all the shops to open we went to St Mark’s Square.  The buildings are beautifully intricate, the architecture is baffling.  We stopped at every bridge to take pictures.  Walking along the river and seeing the city stretched out on top of it amazes you.  The streets are so narrow you have to watch out.  Once the city started waking up you felt the hustle and bustle of the vendors and from behind you “Attenzione!” and we had to quickly move to the side for men wheeling around their goods.
Seeing Lindsey have to jump out of the way for someone else was pretty funny.  It was a world where (almost) no one knew who she was.  Travelling is a scary thing at first; it’s a sort of vulnerability and aloneness that most people don’t experience unless they get out of their comfort zone. 
Right now, with the uncertainty of the Olympics, I hope Lindsey remembers Venice and to say to her that even if you don’t know where that boat in the night is taking you, and you can’t see around the corner right now, that there is something worth wile on the other side.  To remember to put one foot in front of the other and you will always find your way back, and that getting lost is always the best part of any journey. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Roll the Dice

Being an athlete is not only talent, physical strength and determination but the investment in good health.   As we start the New Year, treating our body well is always at the top of the list, but is rarely followed through.  For an athlete, it’s not a resolution, it’s their job.  It employs others to maintain that health, and sponsors to put faith in it.  It’s not going in early to an office and it’s not going on a diet or getting a gym membership, its 24 hours a day 7 days a week all about maintaining one healthy body. 
Being healthy and strong minimizes the risk of accidents and mitigates the ones that do.  But skiing is always dangerous no matter how many precautions you take.  Lindsey has had an extraordinary career with the risks she took.  She pushed her limits and she became the best.  But the risks were always a hair away.  From Picabo Street, Norway’s Lasse Kjus, to the recent crash of Giant Slalon World Champion Tessa Worley, the rate of knee injuries among skiers is staggering. My mother said “in skiing it’s not if you get a knee injury, but when.”  
Tessa Worley crashed in the first slalom run at Courchevel taking her out for the season and the Olympics.  For Lindsey, who continued to ski without an ACL, to stop before the Olympics wasn’t an option.  She was determined to keep up with her points to get a good spot in Sochi.  Knee injuries are common among ski racers, but what Lindsey did wasn’t.  She pushed herself even further while injured.  She didn’t quit.  Lake Louise proved it and so did Val d’Isere.  Whether or not she makes it to the Olympics, the facts remain.  She has proven herself worthy of her success and an incorrigible athlete.  She won’t quit until it’s over.  Up until a few days ago, she couldn’t walk.  She said it feels like her knee was held together with rubber bands.  There is no end point to stop her knee from bending.
Lindsey isn’t successful just because of her skiing and isn’t successful just because she knows how to pose for a camera.  She worked extremely hard to get where she is and it’s difficult to imagine after all her hard work and the strength she built up this year wasn’t rewarded.  Lindsey has succeeded for her country whether she decides to race in the Olympics or not.  She created a generation of future skiers just as Kristina Koznick and Picabo Street did for Lindsey.  She has devoted her time to helping that future generation achieve their goals in skiing.  It’s not only about competing, but that devotion for something she loves.

For Lindsey, the near future is unclear, but the determination she gives to her sport and country will remain constant.  The Olympics are, as always, any ones game.  We’ll just have to roll the dice.