Trading in his twin tips for a pair of finely tuned, razor sharp Head racing skis, Sweden’s Jon Olsson found himself in the starthouse this past Saturday gazing down Val d’Isere’s precipitous Face de Bellevarde piste.
Olsson, 28, a nine-time X-Games medalist and freeskiing innovator is mostly revered as the creator of numerous inverted double flips, including the DJ, Hexo, and Kangaroo as well as The Tornado.
“It all started with me being so nervous that all I managed to eat all morning was a little piece of bread,” said Olsson in his post-race blog about his first career World Cup start. “I didn’t think I was going to be nervous, but for some reason I felt sick all morning!”
This coming from a guy who has consistently racked up Big Air, Superpipe, and Slopestyle medals since 2003, often at jam-packed, adrenaline filled venues. In 2008, Olsson flipped and twisted to an X-Games Big Air gold medal in Aspen, Colorado.
Now, Olsson’s sights are set on the 2014 Sochi Olympics and he has quickly transitioned from freeskier to alpine racer in just three years. The vastly entertaining skier had competed in just FIS and four Europa Cup races prior to receiving a phone call last Monday that a start position in Val d’Isere was his.
“I wouldn’t call myself prepared, but I have a good feeling,” said Olsson prior to the race. “I didn’t expect to go into World Cup this soon. I think I’m just going to fist pump in the start because this has been a big goal of mine for years,” he joked.
Starting 53rd of 67 skiers, Olssson charged out of the gate and at the first timing interval about 30 seconds in was a highly respectable 39th, 1.34 seconds off the lead.
“I came into the steep section and I was loving it,” he said. “I had so much fun on the face with gates flying by me. I had a feeling I was doing well.”
At the second split, he impressively clocked the 27th fastest split, about three seconds back on what proved to be an extremely difficult test for all racers.
“Coming into the last few gates my legs were done and I did everything I could to hang on, but seven gates from the finish I made a mistake, got thrown on my inside ski and the day was over,” said Olsson about his DNF result.
Considering that 20 of the 67 starters failed to finish on the treacherous run, including Bode Miller and France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange, Olsson certainly had nothing to be ashamed of.
“At first I was bummed, but when I got down, caught my breath and heard the split times I almost didn’t care. Seeing that I almost qualified from bib 53 makes me very stoked for the future,” said Olsson referring to the top 30 which qualify for the second run. “After al,l I am having the time of my life so why stress about it.”