Skier Tess Johnson: ‘In some of the best times there will be the worst times’

Tess Johnson smiles during the Freestyle Skiing World Cup Moguls competition at Deer Valley Resort on January 14, 2022 in Park City, Utah. Johnson recently reflected on the fact that he missed the 2022 Olympics.
Rick Bowmer/AP

VAIL – Henry David Thoreau once said, “If we are quiet and ready enough, we will find compensation in every disappointment.

Feeling jet lagged, depressed and recovering from food poisoning, when Tess Johnson returned from her “time in China” (she was not named to the world’s deepest women’s Olympic mogul team this cycle), she took into account the words of the great American writer.

“I had to agree with myself not to ski because I knew if I was going to force myself to come back out there and go 100 per cent, I wouldn’t do as well,” said she said of the week spent mostly lounging. bed, watching on her laptop her teammates and friends compete in the moguls final to kick off the Games.

The “trauma of being isolated for more than four months” – a period when her only close contact lasted a week with her boyfriend – and her subsequent reintegration into society was exhausting. At one point in February, she debated giving up the rest of the year.

“I’m really glad I didn’t,” she said, pointing to a pair of top 10s at the last two World Cups, which her family was there to watch.

“My parents were awesome and so supportive. My boyfriend really helped me through that too,” she said of her dark February. “All the support I received in the mogul community and the Vail community is really what got me through this ordeal.”

Johnson also won the national moguls and dual moguls titles at the season finale meet in Deer Valley a few weeks ago, a place where his winter turmoil peaked. After the Jan. 14 World Cup, Johnson, ranked fifth overall in the 2021-22 World Cup and second American at that time, learned he had been cut from the Olympic team.

Those were “the hardest two days of my life.”

She is happy to no longer be attached to the Beijing 2022 Games.

“I’m proud of how I gave myself this treatment time and how I simultaneously pushed myself to get back out there,” she said.

“Those two things helped me come to terms with everything that happened. I can honestly say that I’ve moved on and I’m really happy to say that because it made the rest of the season a lot more fun and that makes me excited for this upcoming training season.

After starting out on the flats and taking up freeskiing, Johnson was invigorated by returning to Golden Peak to train with her SSCV coaches John Dowling and Philippe Marquis and their athletes.

“It was really fun training on this course,” she said of the World Cup-ready venue. “I think that period was just to tap into my love for skiing and that’s exactly what Vail and the new course provided for me.”

Riley Campbell, former SSCV coach and coach of Johnson’s US Ski Team until his retirement this year, was also present.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had – an amazing person.”

Johnson collected quotes from dozens of teammates, young and old — from around the world — in a 30-page notebook as a retirement gift.

“It was such a good representation of the legacy he left behind,” she described, noting that the coaches’ unique use of humor was instrumental in helping him through the pandemic and its Olympic disappointment. “He touched so many lives in mogul skiing, he will be missed.

Johnson said the “close-knit tycoon community” lends itself to a coaching collaboration during the sessions on Golden Peak.

“That’s the really beautiful thing about coming home and working out once in a while,” she said.

“And now that we have this super cool course on Golden Peak – I’m so excited to come home and practice. I wish I could be home all the time and practice on this course. to be so cool for the younger guys who are mogul skiers here they are so lucky to have this facility.

According to the 2018 Olympian, Dowling “goes for everything” when it comes to bringing a World Cup to Vail.

“As it should be,” she said. “It’s a World Cup caliber course.

If that happens, his pupil will be happy.

“It would be one of the coolest things I can say I’ve done in my career,” she said of a chance to compete on the highest stage in her backyard. “It’s one of my dreams.”

Even though Golden Peak provided the spark she needed, the last two World Cups still brought a certain level of awkwardness, as she hugged her teammates – their first hugs since before the pandemic – in Italy.

Kai Owens, center, celebrates after finishing first in the final, between Hannah Soar, left, who finished second, and Tess Johnson, who placed third, during the Women’s Mogul Skiing World Cup in parallel on February 5, 2021.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

“The team had just come back from the Olympics and they had all their awesome gear,” Johnson said. “You know, I’m so happy for them and at the same time still sad that I can’t be there with them. Jaelin Kauf winning a silver medal – I wanted to be there to celebrate with her.

The sisterhood of the women’s mogul team, however, was not shattered by the events of the start of the year.

“We just went through so much together and it doesn’t just go away because of one traumatic thing,” she said.

As she looks ahead to next season, many of her teammates will once again inspire her to improve.

On the way to summer

This spring, Johnson spent time with family, reconnected with childhood friends on the trails or over meals, and relaxed with her boyfriend in Boulder, even attending a Rockies game.

“Just kind of a normal life,” she laughed.

She also helped Bob Brandoni and the Vail Mountain School women’s soccer team, a program she was also part of.

“They have a spectacular team this year,” she said. “Just a group of really talented, hard-working young women, and it’s really cool to see how this VMS culture hasn’t changed at all since I’ve been there.”

Johnson prepared for her senior season as a Gore Ranger after returning from Pyeongchang.

“It’s so great to be part of it again, just to come back four years later,” she said of the football community, which she loves as much as skiing. “I miss it a lot.”

Earlier this week, she sat down with her new U.S. Ski Team coach, Ryan Wilson, to discuss goals for 2022-23. Last year, she changed her run and her mentality, even adding a new trick.

“This year it’s not that,” she said. “It’s a year of sculpture and a year of construction. Take everything I’ve done and carry on.

She hopes to improve several elements of her air cork top. His coaches carry out an in-depth analysis of his score in each race over the past year, comparing it to the top five. The main takeaway for Johnson was that she had points up for grabs in the airiness and speed department.

“It will be about training at high speed all the time.”

Johnson said the meticulous nature of the prep season fascinated her, although she was relieved not to be reinventing herself.

“There is always something to improve,” she says. “I think this season is more about adjustments than big, huge changes.”

It makes sense. She finished fifth overall in the World Cup, tying 2019 for her best career result.

“Really, I had a great season,” she beamed, noting improvements in her cork, venom and speed goals.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but any professional athlete focuses their goals primarily on performance, and if I look at those goals that I set, that I wrote down at the start of the season – I’ve met and achieved many many of them. By these measures, it was an excellent season.

“It was definitely my best season yet,” she continued. “That’s what I always learn in this sport – in some of the best times there will be the worst times. It’s all about perspective and how to handle things. Yeah, a massive learning year .

Almost as if Thoreau’s quote sat in front of her, she added: “So even though there was a loss, there’s also a lot to be proud of and a lot of things to think about. to lean on.”

The well-spoken 21-year-old is also on the rise. “The practices never stop,” she said of the six-month prep period.

She’ll break this down into several three-week blocks of intensity, followed by a week or two of recovery. A typical summer day consists of 20-25 jumps off the water ramp at Park City Olympic Park in the early morning, followed by a two-hour gym session.

Then trampoline in the afternoon and pilates and stretching to finish. Around 45 days of water ramping will be incorporated into the summer schedule, along with four separate snow camps in Mount Hood, Whistler, possibly Austria and possibly Sweden.

Johnson said the 2026 Games are “absolutely still the goal” and to do that she “will have to keep pace with the young people”, pointing to aerial performers like Ski and Snowboard Club athletes Vail Kai Owens and Liz Lemley.

“It’s pretty cool training with these amazing young jumpers,” she said of Owens and Lemley in particular. “It motivates you and teaches you how to improve. I plan to draw inspiration from it a little more this year.

The “compensation” for last year’s “disappointment” should make American mogul fans “calm and ready,” eager to see what the prolific skier can do.


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