PyeongChang 2018 Test Events!

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. 

Luke Bodensteiner
Executive Vice President | Athletics
U.S. Ski & Snowboard 

First Impressions Bode Well for PyeongChang 2018!

JEONGSEON, Korea (Feb. 4, 2016) – You never get a second chance to make a first impression and it looks like PyeongChang 2018 is off to a great start with the men’s Audi FIS Ski World Cup events kicking off at the Jeongseon Alpine Center this week with plenty of athlete praise. This event will serve as the first official Olympic test for all sports in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games program.  

The men got their first look at the new Olympic downhill course on Wednesday, with a free ski session on the run. Initial reactions were positive from the men on both the course itself and snow quality.

There was much discussion early in the season about whether or not Jeongseon would be ready for the test events, but the organizing committee has done an incredible job of preparing the track for this event. The snow is smooth like butter, and feels a lot like snow the men know and love.

“The snow is similar to the Colorado snow that we train on in the fall, so we are comfortable here,” noted Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA).

Not only does the track feature perfectly prepared snow, it also boasts some sweet jumps. And the American Downhillers get stoked on flying.

“The jumps are fun and built nicely,” said Sullivan. “Most of us enjoy the jumps, so there is no holding back in those areas.”

Though the four big jumps on the track have not been officially named, the U.S. Ski Team and coaching staff has come up with a few of their own unofficial titles: Kimchi Kicker, Sushi Slapper, and Eggdrop Drop. As Sullivan explained to the AP after the training run today: “We haven’t named the finish jump yet. We’re trying to throw a little culture into the course.”

Apparently it didn’t take long for the American Downhillers to feel at home in Korea. Taking an immediate liking to the Jeongseon downhill track, five guys finished in the top 30 in the first of two downhill training runs with Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) and Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) leading the way tied for fourth. Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) was sixth, Sullivan 12th and Wiley Maple (Aspen, CO) 22nd.  

Norway continued to show off its World Cup dominance with Attacking Viking Kjetil Jansrud finishing with the fastest time. Austria’s Romed Baumann was second, .13 seconds out, and Italy’s Peter Fill third, .35 seconds out.

The American Downhillers have had positive things to say about the Korean experience as a whole.

“The snow is responsive and smooth and it feels really good on the body compared to what we’ve done the past few races – it’s nice,” reflected Nyman. “Bryce (Bennett), Wiley (Maple) and I walked through the town the other day and we didn’t fit anywhere. Surprisingly, not as many people stared at us as we thought they would – three big Neanderthals walking through town!”

The women will have to opportunity to test out the Jeongseon Alpine Center with Audi FIS Ski World Cup downhill and super G events next season.

QUOTES

Sasha Rearick, Head Men’s Coach
[On the overall experience]
Track is perfectly prepared! Amazing, nice snow to ski. Safety is well done! It’s a great venue with a good warm up right next to the race hill. The hospitality has been really good with a lot of good food options for the guys. It’s a long drive – one hour from hotel to venue is a bit tough but doable and will be a tiring week as a result.

The hill is not particularly difficult, but will have its unique challenge to win. There are lots of blind roles and jumps. The hill’s all about continuing to build momentum and keeping that momentum. It features big turns, but is not very technical. Lots of tucking. No real glide sections, no gnarly sections. Speed is not high yet bit could increase as snow gets faster. 

Steven Nyman
[On the downhill track]
The track is a lot of fun. It has big, long sweeping turns – kind of like the lower half of Copper. I think that prepares us pretty well for this hill. It’s kind of steppy the whole way down – lots of steps and big swingers and critical turns that will carry your speed. The snow is dry and it’s cold here. There’s really no snow here…just kind of a couple of little dustings. Everything is manmade. It makes for great ski racing – the track’s a lot of fun. It’s a relief, because it’s been prepped so well. Tommy Johnson was hired to come here and prep it and the snow is responsive and smooth. It feels really good on the body compared to what we’ve done the past few races – it’s nice.

[On exploring the Korean culture]
It’s definitely a different culture over here – the food and the people and not understanding anything. I’m coming here with open eyes. I’m coming here to learn and prepare myself for the Olympics. I’ve never done a pre-Olympic event like this, so I’m pretty fired up. Bryce (Bennett), Wiley (Maple) and I walked through the town the other day and we didn’t fit anywhere. Surprisingly, not as many people stared at us as we thought they would – three big Neanderthals walking through town.

Marco Sullivan
[On the downhill track]
The track flows fairly nicely the whole way down. It is not very fast so I think they can straighten out some sections for the Olympic race. The jumps are fun and built nicely. The snow is similar to the Colorado snow that we get to train on in the fall so we are comfortable here. Also, most of us enjoy the jumps so there is no holding back in those areas.  

[On exploring the Korean culture]
We haven’t done a ton of exploring so far but since we got off the plane things have been well-organized and easy to manage. Most of the meals have been buffets, which feature some native Korean fare and some more common foods. It has been a little bit hit-and-miss with trying foods that we have never tasted before. Overall the organizers are treating the racers great. It’s a nice hotel with good food and good skiing – that is enough for me.

Written by: Megan Harrod