Erin Maidman: Winning my first races

Erin Maidman

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The Foothill Dragon Press's Erin Maidman, shown here taking ninth in Mammoth Mountain's Super G Junior Olympic Qualifier on Friday, Feb. 22, later went on to win her first two races on Sunday, Feb. 24. Credit: Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation. Used with permission.Well, I did it. I qualified for the Junior Western Championships and I’m headed for Alaska in March. I achieved my goal of getting a Top Ten finish. And then I surpassed it.

On Friday, we had our first race. Super-G is a one-run race, so I only had three runs left before the end. I knew that I had to do well. I was feeling the pressure to get a good finish. But, personally, I can’t focus on the result. I have to focus on the process, on skiing technically well. So, in the start gate, instead of thinking “You have to go fast, you have to go fast,” I decided to treat it like a training run, allowing myself to ski without the pressure I normally put on myself.

I came down in sixth. Then I waited in agony as I got pushed back spot by spot until I was in ninth place, which met my Top Ten standard but it did not satisfy me at all. I knew I could do better.

I was all set to race on Saturday, but it was cancelled because of super high winds. So I had a day to relax and think about the next two races, which would both be held on Sunday. I thought about the specific aspects of my technique that I needed to fix to do better, and I made a crucial decision that definitely changed the outcome of the next two races. {sidebar id=65}

I had a new game plan going into Sunday. Instead of taking two inspections, like I used to always do, I took an extra warm-up run to practice my technique. I did some drills, relaxed, and focused only on my most detrimental technical flaw. Rather than only taking two warm-ups, I took four, so by the time I was up at the start, I was very comfortable on my skis. I built up my confidence, relaxed my mind, and got ready to go.

In the start gate, I took three deep breaths, closed my eyes, and just went. I left all the pressure behind. All I remember from that run is feeling like I had rockets on my feet and being extremely calm. It was one of the most fun runs I’ve ever skied.

I went through the finish feeling refreshed and a little frustrated, because I felt like I made a few mistakes. I clicked out of my skis and walked up to the timing board. There was a big commotion going on, and all the racers around the board were whispering among themselves. My friend ran up to me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and said, “Erin! You’re in second!”

I was overjoyed; I didn’t expect that at all, not after that run.

Then someone in the little crowd piped up and yelled, “What are you talking about? She’s winning.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I have never won a race before, so this was uncharted territory.

“How could I be winning? This won’t possibly hold up,” I thought.

My closest friends and I waited very impatiently as each racer crossed the finish line. I braced myself before every new time was written down, preparing to be beaten. But no one did. I still had the fastest time on the board. Even the girl who won the day before was slower than me. That’s when I realized that I had actually done it. I had won my first race, nonetheless at a Junior Olympic Qualifier.

My friends and I celebrated at the start for so long. Everyone came up and congratulated me. My parents were ecstatic. My grandparents, who just so happened to be visiting, couldn’t believe their ears. My coaches did cartwheels! I hugged everybody and said many “thank-yous” and just enjoyed the moment. It was my moment. And I loved it.

I sat back and thought about what I had just done. I had moved up from ninth place to first in just one day. I beat all of the girls who I had previously thought to be unbeatable.

To think, just six weeks ago I couldn’t even walk from my injury. I had found a way to study independently, given up volleyball, and moved to Mammoth to see myself do this. All the hard work had payed off, and I was absolutely glowing with happiness.

But I couldn’t let myself get too happy just yet, because I had one more race to finish.

I was now the favorite to win the next one, and I really wanted to do it again. I obviously knew I could. But, I also knew that, if I didn’t treat the next run exactly the same as the first, I wouldn’t win it.

So, I forgot all about it. After lunch, I took my four warm-up runs, relaxed, and simply focused on fixing those few mistakes I had. I did the same ritual in the start gate, and went down completely at ease. I don’t remember much about that run either.

When I came down, I had no idea what to expect. I skied up to the timing board, and every person was looking at me, with their mouth wide open, and some were even laughing. I was nervous because I didn’t know what that meant. Did I do well again? Or did I totally suck?

I walked through the crowd and whispered to my friend, “What did I just do?”

She whispered back, “You just won by half a second.”

Sure enough, I looked at the timing board and realized that I’d done it again. I’d won my second race ever, on the same day as my first. It’s been a very long time since someone’s done that. I honestly still can’t believe it.

I am the first Mammoth girl to win a race in two years. I was blessed with not only one moment on the top of the podium, but two. I soaked it up, and truly enjoyed it. It was one of the best days of my life.

I will never be able to forget what it felt like to win those races. I am so grateful to all of the coaches, friends and family who supported me because their encouragement really made a difference. I truly couldn’t have done it without them.

Despite my extreme and utter happiness, I won’t let myself be completely satisfied with this. These wins make me hungry for more. I have proven to myself and to everyone else that I am capable of skiing at the top, but I still have a long way to go. I will use this as a tool to push myself further and achieve greater heights, hopefully in all events. This is the greatest confidence boost I could have asked for, and I now believe in myself more than I ever have before.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be training to compete in Alaska. Winning those two races bumped me from 24th place to seventh in a matter of a day, so I will definitely be attending. I hope to succeed in Alaska, and really enjoy my time there with my teammates and coaches. We’ve earned it, after all.

I can’t wait. 

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