The North American Cup is back in action this week starting off with the men taking on the demanding hill of Mont Edouard, Quebec. The men kicked out of the start gate on Feb. 3 with quick feet and smart tactics for two days of slalom racing. On this hill, the men had to inspect and execute a technical line with an unforgiving, icy pitch. The American men held onto the gold medal positions both days with AJ Ginnis, of the U.S. Ski Team and Dartmouth Ski Team, winning the first day and Jett Seymour of the University of Denver Ski Team striking gold the second day.
On the first day of racing, AJ Ginnis did not hold back on the morning run. He kicked out of the start gate, wearing Bib 3 with confidence and a strong focus. He came across the finish line with a pretty hefty lead, 0.95 in front of the field. Ginnis has been battling injuries, but he is not using that as an excuse to hold back. He has been extremely excited about the way he has come back to snow. Despite a knee injury last season that almost ended his career and a tough December with a torn groin, he is proving that nothing is restricting him from excelling.
“This NorAm and the World Cup Races last week have been surreal,” said Ginnis. “After a full reconstruction of my knee last season and a torn groan in December, I am very excited about my performance. It felt really good! To get invited to the Slalom World Cups in Austria and getting to train with Ryan Wilson (U.S. Ski Team World Cup Slalom Coach) was really awesome.”
He further explained, “I re-centered myself in Sugarloaf at the University Races, focusing on getting back into the swing of things with different conditions and coming into the NorAm Slaloms with strength.”
Teammate Ben Ritchie of the Alpine B, U.S. Ski Team trailed close behind Ginnis (USA; Dartmouth) in the overall time of the day; Ending just 0.30 behind his teammate.
Ritchie (USA) reflected, “Today was a solid day. I didn’t have a great first run, but I was able to turn it around and ski better the second run.”
Ritchie (USA) pushed out of the start gate wearing bib-two. Unfortunately, he lost some time on the first course but came out of the second start gate with a different plan from inspection. The adjusted focus allowed him to execute a winning second run, 0.60 ahead of the field. The time made up on his second run skied him into the silver medal position.
Ritchie (USA) explained, “On the second run I just had a better plan going into the run and I was able to execute my plan.”
Ritchie (USA) earned himself his third NorAm podium finish this season. Skiing aggressively into the bronze position, Simon Fournier of the Alpine Canadian Ski Team concluded the podium for the first day of slalom. Fournier (CAN) carved through the challenging course with an overall time 1.77 off of Ritchie (USA).
Fournier (CAN) inferred, “The races were ok. I honestly was expecting a little more out of myself. The first set of the day was a little more challenging with a long distance between gates. The hill is pretty challenging in itself, but the course crew watered the night before, so the snow held up super nicely. The conditions were pretty good.”
Ginnis (USA; Dartmouth), Fournier (CAN), and Ritchie (USA) are all getting their feet in the door on the World Cup Circuit. The three of them got back from the Austrian World Cup races that took place at the end of January and reflected on the experience. These experiences give each of them the ability to bring new focuses to the NorAm series. They all concluded that the experience of The World Cup is extremely rewarding but more challenging than any other part of their ski racing careers.
Fournier (CAN) explained the challenge of stepping into the World Cup, “Last month racing World Cup was a really tough month for me. Overall, it is a must to go through the experience. However, the hills are very challenging, longer, and the injections are different then I have ever skied.”
Ritchie (USA) agrees with the challenging aspects, but on a positive note, he proclaims, “The World Cup experience is making the NorAms more relaxing for me. The races have a lot less pressure and the hills are easier.”
The second day of slalom came with the same weather conditions, exciting finishes, another pair of challenging courses, and tactical skiing. Jett Seymour, skiing for The University of Denver arced a strong, aggressive line on both runs, which allowed him to cross the finish on top. Seymour (DU) proudly ended the day 1.22 ahead, which was a substantial lead over the field. This was the twenty-one-year old’s first win of the NorAm series this season.
“My first win of the NorAm series this season was amazing. It was really nice to be able to execute two clean runs. I have shown glimpses of how I have been skiing in other races, but until this point, I haven’t been able to put two clean runs together. There is no better feeling than seeing all your hard work pay off!” Seymour (DU) told Ski Racing Media.
Seymour’s (DU) focus for his big slalom win came from his training last week in Europe, “I had just got back from Europe where I was able to build some confidence coming here. I really wanted to try and bring the skiing that I was able to execute in training in the race. That was my focus yesterday. Today I really just wanted to go out and enjoy skiing and ski racing. I wanted to have fun skiing and not get so caught up in the results and technique. It was very freeing for me and it helped me ski better.”
Simon Fournier (CAN) reigned in another medal, coming across the podium into second place. Bridger Gile of the Alpine C U.S. Ski Team came in 0.90 behind Fournier (CAN) rounding out the podium. This third-place finish earned Gile (USA) his eleventh, top-ten finish for the NorAm series this season.
Gile (USA) found some differences in his skiing and shared his reflection between the two days of slalom with Ski Racing Media. Gile (USA) set goals after his fourth-place finish during the first day of the slalom, “Tomorrow I want to charge more because I wasn’t really charging down the pitch. I also want to straighten my line a bit and focus on my arc more.”
Gile (USA) stated after his podium finish on the second day, “I charged more today and that made the course run better. On the second run, I charged through the bumps and I think that was what made the biggest difference.”
Both Gile (USA) and Fournier (CAN) will be competing in the GS races taking place over the next two days. They are both going to take certain focuses from the slalom days into their giant-slalom runs.
Gile’s (USA) goal for the GS is to, “bring the same patience into the top of the turn and keep trying to arc more than I want to.”
Fournier (CAN) declared, “I will do the GS races. I haven’t trained a lot of GS, but I will bring the insights I got from the last two days of slalom racing to the GS hill. Hopefully, my GS memories from training this Summer will come back to me.”
Stay tuned over the next two days for the men’s giant slalom races on February 5th and 6th!