The first test events of Pyeongchang 2018 held at the new downhill venue of Jongseon were a success for both POCOG and for the U.S. Ski Team. In the inaugural downhill race on the Bernhard Russi designed track, Steven Nyman found the line, and his first podium finish of the season. The event was well organized, well attended, and marked the first-ever downhill race to be contested in Korea.
While Andrew Weibrecht skied out in the SG the following day, he showed clear speed by winning his splits before mid-judging a blind gate, a mistake made by a number of the other top favorites.
Immediately following the race, Andrew was whisked off to Incheon by private air transfer arranged by the organizing committee to help him get home to Lake Placid as soon as possible to see his new baby daughter, who was born while he was in Korea. Although without Andrew, the rest of the team stayed in Korea for a five day training camp, which was arranged in close cooperation with the Korean Ski Association.
Earlier this spring, Lindsey Vonn and I travelled to Seoul and Pyeongchang to establish a cooperative agreement with the Korean Ski Association in which we provide guidance in developing their team and training access at a number of our on-snow camps, and they provide us with exclusive access to train on the new Olympic venues. The Koreans have been incredible partners, and are fantastic hosts every time we visit.
For five days following the test event, our team trained with nine Korean athletes on the Jongseon downhill. The course crew, many of who hail from Beaver Creek and our New Zealand training base Ohau, stayed on for the week "unofficially" after their contracts had expired, to help ensure that we could maintain the race surface. We had half a dozen cats and drivers at our disposal through the duration of the camp and had exclusive use of the entire mountain.
The athletes were able to take about 20 full-length timed runs on the track, and were also able to run technical sections as needed to gain comfort with the terrain and set. Our team now has about five times the volume of all of the other international athletes on that track now, and also had a unique mid-winter speed camp during a week with no speed races.
While on the hill, we were able to gather GPS data and accellerometry to understand the speeds and forces involved with different tactical lines, and collected a bevy of video data, including a "valley cam" that collected line data from the start to the exit of the Blue Dragon Valley corridor, a key point entering the finish jump. Given that the track runs at about 95-100 seconds with no scary sections, the Olympic race will be about precision and building momentum. With tailwinds, the jumps fly very long, up to 65m!
In addition to the volume of skiing our team achieved on the hill, we captured 360 virtual reality video of the track, which we will replay for the athletes through VR goggles, as well as digitized video that is synced to a skiing simulator being installed in the Center of Excellence to further expand our team's comfort and familiarity with the track.
Finally, for the duration of the camp we stayed in a hotel property located 5 min from Jongseon, which we will use as team accommodation during the Games. With the help of our chefs we were able to do a full test of the property, and gain buy-in from the athletes about the accommodation. It's one of the few properties located at Jongseon, and we feel fortunate to have moved early to secure a setup for our team.
Executive Vice President | Athletics
U.S. Ski & Snowboard