Johnson 4th in Tremblant, likely for 1st Winter Games
Alongside the World Cup mogul course in Tremblant, Quebec, a fan waved an American flag during the last round of competition on Saturday, Jan. 20.
“I guess he was there for me,” said Tess Johnson, of Edwards, who was the only skier from the U.S. to make the six-person superfinal.
Johnson finished fourth on the day. It was the best performance of the 17-year-old Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy senior’s career, the latest in a season of results that keep trending upward.
“Today I got better with each run which is what I was aiming for,” she said following the competition. “I think I skied my best today, in competition, that I ever have.”
LIKELY FOR OLYMPICS
The finish makes Johnson likely for the Olympic team, which is expected to take four moguls skiers to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. Saturday’s race was the final Olympic qualifier of the season. Motivation to make that team, along with the experience that comes with more starts at the World Cup level, has been the catalyst for the steady improvement in Johnson’s skiing, she said.
“Going to the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was 9 years old, so it’s always in the back of my head, whenever I ski,” she said. “But this season, I’ve been focusing on what I can control, which is how I ski. I think, from training back to August, I’ve been capable of making that super final just based on my skiing, but that’s only part of the equation. You have to have a really strong mental game.”
TOP AIR NERVES
A moguls race takes skiers down a bumpy course, with two jumps along the way. The events are timed, but the final score is also based on a judges ruling which takes into account the skier’s performance on the jumps, among other things. Johnson said when she first started competing at the World Cup level last season, the first jump, or “top air” as the athletes call it, was the weak point of her run.
“I realized that was because when I pushed out of the gate, I was so nervous, and my top air reflected those nerves,” Johnson said. “But then as I went down the run, it got better, and that’s because I got less nervous in those 30 seconds.”
It’s a situation that could be used as a metaphor for Johnson’s career up to this point — as it has progressed, the nerves have calmed, and the skiing has improved.
“This season, I’ve learned to get the nerves and all the nervous energy out of the way before I push out of the gate, and just focus on skiing my best,” Johnson said. “With more starts I’m getting more experience and learning more about what I need to do mentally and physically to perform my best.”
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.