Zamansky climbs into World Cup
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Heading into Thanksgiving last year, Jake Zamansky had plenty to be thankful for.
Not only was the Carbondale native and U.S. Ski Team racer going to be spending a rare holiday at home, he was scheduled to make his World Cup debut in giant slalom – on his home mountain no less.
Mother Nature, however, didn’t cooperate. Lack of snow forced the cancellation of the giant slalom. Zamansky was relegated to forerun the two World Cup slaloms on Aspen Mountain, and, despite marked improvement and success at lesser levels, he never got his chance to start a World Cup.
Almost a year later, Zamansky’s time has come. The 21-year-old will be among eight Americans in the starting field Sunday when the men’s World Cup season opens with a giant slalom at Soelden, Austria.
“He’s clearly one of our young guys charging up who’s going to put pressure on guys skiing World Cup. He’s skiing fast enough to get into the top 30, or quite a bit better,” Phil McNichol, head men’s coach of the U.S. Ski Team, said Sunday.
Zamansky, who grew up racing with the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club, spent last season racing on the Nor Am and Europa Cup tours, the latter being the strongest tour below World Cup. Zamansky posted a career-best 11th in a Europa Cup G.S. in Italy, and he finished in seventh place overall in slalom and G.S. on the Nor Am tour.
The results improved Zamansky’s G.S. world ranking from somewhere in the 160s or 170s, McNichol said, to the 80s heading into this season. He also drastically improved his ranking in slalom to the 90s this season, two criteria that helped Zamansky leapfrog from the U.S. Ski Team’s developmental squad, past the C team, to the elite B team. It’s one stop below the likes of U.S. A-teamers Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves, both of whom have won World Cups.
“He progressed a lot in his first full season on the Europa Cup, just churning his way up through the start list by finishing top 30,” said McNichol, who was the head European Cup coach for the U.S. last season.
“And he made the leap (over the C team) basically because he halved his ranking in two events.
“There’s a pretty good distinction once you make that break onto the B team – it’s kind of the first step in the upper echelon of the national team group. These are athletes currently on the move to the World Cup.”
At the same time, McNichol said it’s not surprising to see Zamansky make the big leap.
“It’s not unrealistic for him to have a curve like Bode’s,” the coach said, “right past Europa Cup and into the World Cup. But generally you need to have some solid performances at the Europa Cup level to hang with the World Cup crew.”
Zamansky and the U.S. technical team spent August training in New Zealand, and they’ve been training at Soelden since Sept. 25. After the Soelden race they’ll return to the states for training in Colorado before traveling to Park City, Utah, for a World Cup slalom and G.S. in late November.
The other American starters in the Soelden G.S. include: Miller of Franconia, N.H., Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., Dane Spencer of Boise, Idaho, Tom Rothrock of Cashmere, Wash., Erik Schlopy of Park City, Chip Knight of Stowe, Vt., and Thomas Vonn of Newburgh, N.Y.
“We’re fired up. You train all summer and it’s a pretty arduous process and it’s always exciting to get back to racing and see what you can do,” McNichol said of the Soelden race. “It’s still early, and we’ve typically been pretty successful and we hope to keep that trend going, but it’s also a good gauge to see where you need to go before you start the meat of the season in mid-November. I guess you could call it a tune-up race for the world.”
For up-and-coming racers like Zamansky, a top-30 result at Soelden will earn him a starting slot in the Park City G.S.
“There’s a number of guys who need to qualify (for the second run, or top-30) at Soelden to get to Park City without going through the team time trial,” McNichol said. “But Jake’s skiing fast enough that he’d probably qualify anyway.
“It’s my hope this year that he stays on track and really becomes a force on the Europa Cup, and, through that, starts to show something on the World Cup.”
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