The #Annies on U23 Worlds Prep

Ben, Annie and Annie have all qualified to represent the US at the 2015 U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. They are also members and beneficiaries of the National Nordic Foundation, for whom these pieces were originally written. You can see the original articles and learn more about the NNF here.

Annie Pokorny on what she’s bringing:

The first year I made a development trip, the 2013 U23s in Liberec, CZE, I thought it would be a really good idea to bring only a backpack and ski bag. It was my first transcontinental trip and, from my perspective, saving $50 on luggage fees both ways was well worth chugging through airport terminals with my life on my back. At least it was worth it until I actually got to Europe, where my two layers, one t-shirt and one pair of pants lasted about three days before taking on the distinctly Czech aroma of the Hotel Babylon. As I traveled back to the US, nailing my fellow passengers in the head with my carabineer’d boots and water bottles before shamefully shoving the mass into the last overhead bin, I decided that next year, I would check a bag. It was worth the investment.

Last year swung in the complete opposite direction. My 55lb bag made it through security after I promised that I would carry two of my stuff sacks on, in addition to my filled backpack, tote bag and camera bag. In Val di Fiemme, I filled the Euro-sized closet with layers on layers, including but not limited to, about 12 sports bras. All to spend most of my trip in a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt I bought in Toblach two days into precamp. I paid the $100 to bring plenty of clean layers, and just as much to bring them home, untouched.

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So here I stand, year three, my last as a U23. And I have to tell you, I’ve packed well. I have three non-smell-don’t-have-to-wash top layers, three bottom layers, four sports bras, wool socks, two t-shirts, jeans, sweatpants and two sweaters. I have plenty of pairs of sunglasses, buffs, spandex, and training gear for all weather. I have my NNF patches sewn on. I know where my passport is, as well as my photocopy. My credit card companies know that I’m leaving the continent. And, best of all, I can carry all of my stuff with my own two arms, without hitting anyone in the face.

Where my first year was a matter of experience, in many ways, I showed up under-prepared. I had only ever raced at home, with people whose parent’s names I knew. Being in a foreign country felt new, exciting, and completely over stimulating. I had never seen so much high caliber skiing from a group of kids my age, and I felt totally fired up just to be there, whether or not I recognized my surroundings.

My second year, I knew what was coming, or, at least, I thought I did. I had been on a 6 hour flight before, heard the German announcements, and passed through customs. I could speak a bit of Italian, which I expected would help me soar through Italy, and had brought enough socks and underwear to last me until I graduated college (which, if you know me, would be in a long time). And I raced better. I placed higher than I did before, in a group of Olympians and World Cup skiers, but I wasn’t satisfied. When I watched the girls I competed with, I saw quite clearly the differences in our races, technique and strategy. I learned from them, saw what needed to improve, and, with the presence of so many impressive performances from US juniors and U23s, I knew it was possible.

So, as I get ready for my third year at U23s, I’m bringing with me a little knowledge I didn’t have on that first trip, beyond just how to pack. I know that when we get there, the place and the people will give us a lot to look at. But I also take with me the understanding of when to hold up my camera and when to focus my attention forward. I know that, when I step to the line, the women next to me will bring with them a tremendous amount of experience and skill. But I also recognize, as an American skier, that I have experienced a development process that will allow me to stick with, and pass them. I know that, when we look at the other teams at the championships, my US teammates and I will see evidence of great ski cultures and endless support. But, from watching my teammates perform and experiencing these races in years past, I realize that we have what we need, in talent and support, to compete when the gun goes off.

SMS T2 team love in the finish pen after Jessie got 3rd at U23s
SMS T2 team love in the finish pen after Jessie got 3rd at U23s

Last year, during a team meeting before our first race, Coach Bryan Fish told us that we are no longer a developing ski nation, that we are developed. His words totally fired me up and after watching the group of racers going into this trip, I can tell you that we’re not just preparing, we’re prepared.

Annie Hart with pure inspiration:

Houghton, 12 Junior and 11 U23 athletes met the criteria for this year’s World Junior and U23 Championships to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Furthermore after a month of athlete driven fundraising through the National Nordic Foundation’s Drive for 25, an entire country of Junior, U23, U26 and Senior athletes made the trip possible.

Me charging in tha A final

Now all we have to do is race.  And race fast.  That’s the fun part.  After a hard summer and intense fall of training all the pieces have come together.  We don’t have to worry about funding, we don’t have to worry about qualifying.  Once we’ve arrived we have a clean slate.  We have new spandex, new teammates, new opportunities, and a new country.
Simultaneously some things will not change once we arrive in Almaty.  As our new spandex proudly displays we have the entire nation of stars and stripes backing us.  When we get to the line our goal remains the same.  New course, same tactics.  The competition has changed but we have not.  We will continue trusting our coaches, techs, and teammates.  We will remember that a Team USA success is comprised of individual efforts.  Not just of the individuals in Almaty, but of everyone who has contributed.  And I mean everyone.  Our competitors who pushed us to go faster.  Our supporters who donated to the NNF or our ski clubs.  Our fans who offer endless support.  And even our critics who we simply want to prove wrong.

Me, taking on the qualifier.

I am prouder than I’ve ever been to be an American skier.  Lindsey Vonn just set the record for the most alpine wins for a woman ever and Liz Stephen just finished 5th in the Tour de Ski, another best for an American ever.  Beyond amazing results (of which there are too many to list) ski culture in the US is taking off.  We are making progress as a country, and I am so excited and honored to help push our progress further in the upcoming U23 World Championships and beyond.
Every day won’t be a success, I can promise you that.  But I can also promise you that every loss brings with it a newfound, deeper, and more visceral urgency to win.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We might be the underdogs, but everyone loves a Cinderella story.    #GONNF and #GOUSA.
-The A’s
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One thought on “The #Annies on U23 Worlds Prep

  1. Great article! So excited for you and your teammates! The mind can be the strongest muscle of all. Good luck and we will be cheering you on from back home. Go NNF and go USA! SKI FAST-HAVE FUN! Tom and Mary Bjornsen

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