By Andy Longley
My journey to the Olympics started on the 29th of November 2009, coincidentally this was my 19th birthday. I boarded a plane in Manchester airport and flew to Copenhagen where I had a 7hour layover before boarding a second flight to Helsinki then followed a 3hour layover before flying to my final airport of Kuusamo. The travelling was not done yet though, I then got on a further 2hour bus ride to the town of Suomu Tunturi (on the arctic circle). I was here for the ‘Freestyle Premier’ the opening world cup events for the 09-10 Winter Olympic season. Having registered for the competition I was shown to my cabin where I was to stay for the duration of the event.
I awoke the morning of the first training day at 7am eager to ski, as I opened the curtains the first thing that struck me was how dark it was in fact I never saw the sun for the entire time I was in Finland it just got light at around 11am and by 1pm it was going dark again. The other thing to notice when you are in the Arctic Circle is the serious cold temperatures of around -20, which keeps the snow super dry yet firm when it is skied into moguls.
My first two days training went well, the course had a huge jump at the bottom with a big vertical drop which allowed for a lot of drop time. I chose to train a cork 720 on the top Jump and a Back flip on the bottom, where normally you would do the bigger trick at the bottom.
Competition day one seemed to go really well, I dropped in for my run one of the last competitors to ski. I skied into the top jump rather cautiously as I am not too used to landing a cork in the top moguls however I did stomp the jump and land perfectly in line for the next bumps. I continued on down the middle section skiing maybe a little slower than I would have hoped but came into the top jump without too much of a speed check and went HUGE, I again stomped this jump and crossed the finish line. I scored 17.96 points in this competition which wasn’t bad to say I did ski slower that I would have hoped but I did finish 42 nd.
After having a welcome break over Christmas and New Year at home It was time for the World Cup tour to resume in Calgary, Canada. After an interesting flight from Manchester to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Calgary (flying back over the UK?) we arrived in Calgary and drove to our hotel.
Arriving at the Westin, Calgary was definitely a welcome surprise it’s not often on the world cup tour that the organisers put you up in a 4star city hotel. The second surprise of the trip was yet to come, when we drove over to COP (Canada’s Olympic Park) I found that the moguls course was made on the landing of the old ski flying hill where Eddy the Eagle jumped in the ’88 games. This in its self meant that there was an interesting twist to the course, the top section of the course was pretty mellow with really technical bumps but then half way down the middle section the gradient increased 7degrees from 26 to 33degrees. This meant that the section where you can usually let the skis run was the section where you had to ‘slam on the anchors’ and control your speed for the jump.
Competition Day 1
Well it seems that the snow seems to want to change every day, the first day on the course it was -32 and the second day it was -18 which meant that the snow stayed super soft however on the 3rd day (first comp day) it had been super warm during the morning causing the snow to melt slightly and set super hard in the afternoon before competition. I went through my run being super cautious and not wanting to ski out or crash like I knew many before me had done. I landed both airs with some sketchy skiing but all in all I was happy and finished a respectable 37 th, around halfway in the field.
Competition Day 2
Again day 4 brought completely different conditions, the snow was soft and formed the bumps perfectly. My training runs went really well, and I was feeling super confident on improving on the day before, unfortunately when i dropped in for my actual competition run things didn’t go as planned, i hit the first few moguls wrong which left me fighting for control until the bottom jump. I hasten to add that my result wasn’t as good as the days before, finishing in 44 th position.
After having spent what seemed like an eternity sitting on the plane in Calgary airport we eventually took off and two hours later landed in Salt Lake City. The reason for the delay in take off no-one knew but why, however we were all thinking that as there were around 40 seats on the plane and 35 of us were skiers with a Hold bag and 2pairs of skis that they were having problems fitting all the luggage on. As we stood in baggage reclaim we realised this was the case, everyone seemed to receive their ski bags but the majority of hold baggage was no-where to be seen.
Due to having no ski boots, clothes, goggles (basicly everything but skis and poles) we spent the first day in deer valley doing nothing much at all except calling salt lake airport every hour to see if luggage had arrived yet as we were missing the first of 2 training days. Fortunately that night our luggage did arrive at around 9pm so it was at least nice to go to bed knowing you had a clean change of clothes in the morning.
I woke up the next morning excited that I could finally train on the infamous ‘champions run’ in deer valley, this course if famous because of the 2002 Winter Olympic games where Jonny Mosely surprised the crowd by doing the first inverted jump in a moguls competition ‘the dinner roll’. To do this trick Mosely essentially passed over the opportunity to win gold, but he changed the sport of mogul skiing forever as inverted aerials are now common place in the bumps. It was the games in 2002 that sparked my personal interest in freestyle skiing.
Having ridden the chair to the top of the course I started the inspection, the first thing to note about deer valley is that the gradient never backs off it is a constant 29degree slope. Another thing to notice is just how much bigger the jumps are than any of the other world cup stops, it is a true show-mans course. During training I tried many different trick variations and decided that for the first competition at least I would do a Backflip at the top and a Lincon Loop (sideflip) at the bottom.
Competition day 1, training went well. I got everything down as I had in practice the day before. This made me feel confident as I stepped into the gate, I dropped in and the top section felt perfect a big backflip off the top jump and then I was into the middle section. Time to charge, unfortunately when you make a slight mistake in moguls it is made very quickly into a big one, so I had a few leg splits in this section. Needless to say I was penalised by the judges for these mistakes again and finished 44 th in the event. Pretty much a similar story for competition day 2, except I went back to my preferred trick of a cork 720 on the bottom jump and finished 42nd in the event.
Looking back on the last 2 years and my road to the Olympics I am not ashamed to say I didn’t qualify, I needed to be ranked in the top30 in the world and I currently sit in the mid 30’s. I am happy to have got so close and I still have time on my side, 2010 would have been great for my experience but now its time to get training for 2014. It is my dream to get onto the podium in Sochi, Russia now I have to make that dream reality.