Rough day still can’t keep McKennis from finishing
WHISTLER, British Columbia – When 20-year-old New Castle Alpine skier Alice McKennis got loose in the bumps and thrown off the course at the women’s downhill in Whistler, British Columbia, on Wednesday, there was really only one thing to do. McKennis wanted to hit the last jump. So instead of skiing down the side, McKennis made sure to make the gate and finish her run. “I just tried to finish,” said McKennis.Even though she finished, she was officially not given a time and was disqualified for skiing off course.Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julie Mancuso went 1-2, marking the first time that’s happened in Alpine skiing since the 1984 games. McKennis quickly evaluated what she thinks went wrong with her run.”I think it was just my skiing. I was on the inside. I wasn’t on my outside ski enough to really ski through those bumps. I wasn’t in a great body position to make it through those bumps,” she said after the event.Even after missing the gate McKennis wasn’t about to miss her chance to ski across the finish line in her Olympic debut.”I really wanted to hit the last jump because it’s pretty fun,” McKennis continued. “I figured I might as well finish even though I’m like 17 seconds out.”It might be that resiliency that leads McKennis to bigger and better places. On a day when all the focus was on Vonn and her injuries, McKennis – who grew up on a ranch outside of New Castle – said Wednesday was quite the learning experience. As the youngest U.S. women’s Alpine skier, McKennis said being around the Olympics has been something totally new. The Olympic Games have a way of increasing pressure.”I was nervous today,” she said. “I’m usually more calm and laid back. It was dealing with the nerves and amount of people and the hype around it. It’s a great experience coming here. I’m so proud to represent the United States. You learn from your mistakes basically. You learn from today and hopefully not do it again.”
The course, which had been a big question coming in with varying weather conditions all week, proved to set up well on Wednesday. But the top and mid sections, where McKennis went off course, were bumpy and featured lots of rollers. The course was not suited to McKennis’ style as much as to other skiers.”I’m definitely more of a glider,” McKennis said. “There is no gliding on this hill. We’ve been running really smooth tracks all season. It’s definitely a shock with the other training runs and it was like a mogul field. It was smoother today, but experience definitely helps.” McKennis has been on the fast track since she started skiing at the age of 2 at Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs, and racing at the age of 6. By 18 she was on the U.S. developmental team and in 2009 she won the NorAm downhill and super-G contests. Her performances quickly elevated her as a contender to make the U.S. team.Following being named to the Olympic squad, in the final downhill World Cup event before the Olympics she had a career-best ninth-place finish in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Despite her somewhat disappointing Olympic finish, McKennis said she’s already excited about the future. She’ll return to Colorado Sunday for a day before resuming training. Until then, McKennis is just going to revel in the Olympic experience.”It was always my dream as a girl growing up to come to the Olympics,” she said. “I thought I would make it some day. I knew it was a lot of work, but it seemed like it was so far off. Coming into this season, it was amazing. “It’s just the amount of excitement. It’s the one event people all pay attention to.”At 20 years old, McKennis tried to soak up as much Olympic atmosphere as possible, including taking part in the opening ceremonies.”I did that was really cool. That was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,” she said. “Walk through that archway was an amazing feeling.”
As for the rest of her time at the Olympics, she plans to cheer on her U.S. teammates in super combined, and she might head down to Vancouver and catch some hockey games or whatever else is going on.Before departing the downhill venue Wednesday, McKennis was sure to give a big shoutout to her hometown of New Castle for all the support they gave her.”I want to thank them for their support. They’ve been fantastic. The amount of e-mails and letters, and the people in New Castle made me a banner and signed it,” she said. The good luck at the Olympics banner arrived via package on Tuesday morning. It was filled with messages from residents, plus there were photos and messages wishing her luck from the students at Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle.
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