Three T2 skiers look at the season ahead with their eyes on Sochi
By Annie Hart
Warner Nickerson, Hailey Duke, and Megan McJames are looking to race world cups and represent the United States in Sochi, Russia at the upcoming winter Olympics. Without US Ski Team membership and official support, this seems like a daunting task. While recognizing the tough road ahead, all three are looking to hit the ground running, each working independently to hopefully forge their own unique paths towards an Olympic bid.
T2’s Warner Nickerson. One of his mottos is “The sun never sets on awesome.” So true.
Nickerson, a New Hampshire native, skied four years at Colby College in Maine before skiing professionally. He had success at Colby, rounding up his collegiate career as a two time NCAA All American with dual degrees in government and economics. Nickerson explains that college was a good and necessary step in his life path, noting, “College gets you to focus on something else other than just skiing. You leave more well rounded and mature, so when you are ready to push yourself in a sport or a career, you are much better placed to perform at high level.”
After missing qualifying for the team right out of college, Nickerson made the decision to continue skiing, and was named to the US B Team during the 2006-2007 season. Nickerson struggled with injuries that year, and was not renamed the following season. He took it all in stride, deciding to not quit but instead decided “not to let someone else define his career.” Instead of taking the cut personally, Nickerson took a proactive outlook saying, “If the US Ski Team doesn’t believe in you, you just have to find people that do, and continue to believe in yourself.”
Nickerson actually found life as an independent ski racer liberating. He has taken up the mantra of “always under-planning.” Nickerson continued, “One of the neat things about not being on the team is planning things out just the way you want to do them. You have to be your own technician, manager, travel agent, driver, everything.” As an independent ski racer, Nickerson has started an annual fundraising golf tournament, and has learned the importance of “interacting…it’s the most amazing part of skiing…meeting really cool people.”
Nickerson recently returned from New Zealand, where his under-planning left him without his brand new GS suit, but allowed him to rent a car for five weeks for $256. “Going down to New Zealand, I only brought one GS suit. And then a friend from Georgia asks for a suit, so I sold it to him for 800 New Zealand dollars. Turns out, that was exactly the price of a car, which I needed being my own driver.” At the end of the trip Nickerson left the car in a neighborhood with a note saying “$1000 or best offer,” and listed a friends phone number. Nickerson’s friend sold the car, and in the end Nickerson said, “that is how you do it. Keep thinking outside the box, that’s the fun part about it.”
Thinking outside the box, as well as viewing “every situation as an opportunity,” is what keeps Nickerson going, and what he suggests to people in his position. Nickerson continued, “I’ve found that everyone needs to set their own goals accordingly. For me, that means setting very small, short-term goals. I’m going to focus on constantly linking the best turns together I can, and if I do the short-term really well, my long-term goals—the Olympics and world championships—will come through.”
Hailey Duke racing in Zagreb’s night slalom.
Like Nickerson, Duke has found life as an independent ski racer to be “a source of freedom.” From Sun Valley, Idaho, Duke was a member of the US Ski Team for five years before becoming an independent racer. “What’s cool about my situation, is it’s all me,” Duke explained. “If I want to do something, I make it happen and get it done…everything is literally on me. I seem to like that special situation…really the motivation is what I really want to accomplish, and what do I need to get there.”
A member of the 2010 Olympic team, Duke is looking to be a repeat on the Sochi team this upcoming year, but she will be the first to recognize that she has to “push up the ladder and make some big jumps.” After discovering a tumor on the front of her pituitary gland during October of last year, Duke elected for brain surgery in February, and after a good recovery is already noticing the difference. “The tumor is something I’ve dealt with and just not known it. After not seeing the success that I should have, and not just getting to the fun side of it [skiing], it’s been a whole new process. Now it’s like ‘oh, this what everyone else feels like…this is awesome.’”
Following surgery, Duke moved back home to Sun Valley, and has replanted her roots with the coaches she used to race with and has worked “on establishing something familiar, something that I know, and something I trust in. I can’t take on the world by myself.”
That said, Duke has done a fair deal of carrying the load herself. Duke has been fundraising for herself, going around telling people her entire story. Duke explains, “I don’t feel like I need to create a brand, I just need to tell people what my experience is, and why I’m doing it on my own.”
Without a guaranteed World Cup spot, Duke needs to work her way back up to the World Cup level, “and quickly,” she adds. “Nothing is guaranteed for me. But I’ve had a successful career.” Duke plans to start with Europa cups, “score quickly, move on to World Cups, score there, and then on to Sochi.”
And her advice to other athletes out there in a similar situation? “Good luck, and be as creative as possible.”
For full article:
After brain surgery, Idaho skier aims for Sochi comeback
Posted on October 30, 2013 at 12:53 PM
Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 12:53 PM
BOISE — There are just under 100 days until the 2014 Winter Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia and Sun Valley’s Hailey Duke plans on being there.
However, after being dropped from the U.S. Ski Team and undergoing brain surgery earlier this year, she is motivated to get to Sochi.
Suffering from a severe cold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Duke finished 30th in a Whistler fog.
Four years later, Duke is now healthy and is ready for another Olympic adventure.
The bid comes only months after doctors discovered a tumor on her brain and successfully removed it.
A benefit was held for Duke Tuesday night at 10 Barrel Brewing. She told the crowd that she plans to move up the World Cup points ladder and force the U.S. Ski Team to bring her back.
Duke said they will announce the team in mid-January, and she says that favors her comeback when she believes she will be skiing her best.