Just a few days ago, I won my first World Cup ever!!!
That statement still motivates me and brings a smile to my face! I’m proud of the hard work and focus — both on competition day and months prior — that such a result symbolizes.
Firstly, let me just say that I’m beyond thankful for everyone who has helped me make this dream a reality: my family, coaches, mentors, PTs and strength coaches, sports psych, and friends. Without my team, this seriously wouldn’t be possible. They have all enabled me to both believe in myself and perform at my best. Because they have believed in me in the moments when it mattered most, I was able to stand on top of the podium this past Saturday. 🤗
On competition day, I felt prepped to put everything I had worked on during the past month of focused training in Ruka, Finland — and the prep season and even before that! — to the test. Throughout the entire day, I worked quite hard to keep my mentality strong and confident, just as I had practiced during prep season. There were plenty of moments (such as before qualifications) where my nerves were pretty high. I focused in on how I wanted to execute my competition run, as opposed to thinking about how I wanted to make it to the next round or what would happen if I didn’t perform to my potential.
As the day progressed and I moved from qualifications to finals to super finals, I put particular emphasis on forgetting about the prior run and result, and instead poured my focus into what I could do in the present moment in order to give myself the best opportunity to perform. That involved a lot of conscious adjustments and flexibility with regards to my warmup, training run timing, and trick game plan from run to run. The day was also incredibly cold — one of the chilliest since we had arrived in Ruka — so that after each competition run, my adrenaline and sweat quickly froze, creating another element that I had to consciously handle as best as I could.
Mental adjustment was especially crucial before my last competition run, where I knew exactly how I wanted to lay it all out on the line and ski my best. My finals run (the second-to-last competition run) was admittedly my least favorite run of the day, so I wanted to perform better on my last run. I was tempted to overcompensate and anxiously prepare, as I would’ve in the past. Instead, I kept it simple and confidently let my muscle memory be my guide.
While my focus on my process was physically and emotionally quite efficient, my emotions bubbled to the surfaced when it was all said and done. When I had finally finished my day and was standing in the finish corral, completely proud of what I had just accomplished (even before the score came in), I was purely overwhelmed by the moment. I looked back up at the course, thinking about what I had just done. Then the tears started. When my score was announced and I took the lead, it felt like a huge release. I had just podiumed on World Cup for the first time in nearly 5 years.
After I had officially won and claimed the yellow bib (which signifies the current World #1 – a dream of mine for a VERY long time), the experience leveled up to a whole new degree of excitement.
I was speechless.
Between my first World Cup podium back in 2017 and now, I’ve recovered from a serious knee injury; I’ve brought several new tricks to competition consistently; I’ve pushed the women’s side of sport by becoming the first woman to compete a cork 10; and I’ve learned how to establish myself as the competitor and human being I want to be day in and day out. I’ve struggled and I’ve succeeded. To have all of that hard work begin to pay off in such a tangible moment during an Olympic year was inexplicably gratifying.
Standing on the podium with a teammate (Kai finished 3rd!) is always a neat experience, too. Kai also pushes the women’s side of sport with her trademark cork 7 and cork grab. Between Kai, Jakara (the Aussie 2nd place finisher and one of my good friends!), and myself, the podium was stacked with tough tricks on both jumps! Even beyond the podium, I’m loving watching the women’s field push themselves, as many women are adding new, tougher jumps to their arsenal and progressing the development of the sport!
The feeling I experienced following my win is still tough for me to describe, but what I do know is that my accomplishments in Ruka made me want more. Competing to my full potential was intoxicating — and I’m very motivated to continue striving to achieve my best during the next few events in Sweden this week.
Plus, many of my teammates performed quite well, too, which made it a fantastic day for Team USA! I witnessed some incredibly genuine, human moments outside of the direct spotlight of competition results. That’s what I love about competing: there’s always a story behind the performance of every athlete that makes their individual narrative that much more intriguing and impressive.
For instance, Tess, one of my teammates, competed her cork 7 for the first time in competition. Seeing the smile of pure excitement that beamed across her face following her first competition run with said trick was pretty awesome.
Another one of my teammates, Morgan Schild, returned to competition from her third ACL injury (the fact that she’s returned so strong still blows my mind!). After she finished her first competition run of the day, Jaelin and I met Morgs in the finish corral and swept her into a huge hug as tears poured down her face. That was pretty incredible.
And finally, another one of my teammates (and Frankie’s good friends!), Cole McDonald, crushed his World Cup debut, finishing his day in 5th — an incredible result for any athlete, let alone a first-time World Cup skier. The way he attacked each run with a gutsy and fun attitude, just soaking it all in, was pretty cool to see.
All in all, it was a sweet day.
At the present moment, I’m driving with the team from Stockholm to Idre Fjäll, Sweden, the site of our next two World Cups this upcoming weekend. I’m feeling honored to don the yellow bib going into this week, and am ready to put together my best performances yet again and keep this momentum rolling! I know I have much more left in the tank and can’t wait to put on a show for the rest of the season!
Thank you ALL. Your outpouring of support and kind words has been so encouraging. Even from thousands of miles away, I can feel the love ❤️
Until next time…
For a recap written by the US Ski Team, click here: https://usskiandsnowboard.org/news/giaccio-wins-first-world-cup-owens-third !