Niklas Malacinski has career best finish in Continental Cup competition
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Niklas Malacinski has tapped into a whole new level of intensity.
The 17-year-old finished third, fifth and sixth at a trio of Continental Cup events in Park City, Utah, on Dec. 11, 12 and 13, a career best for the Steamboat Springs native.
The young Nordic combined skier was astonished by his results, particularly his third-place finish in the mass start event.
“It was a huge step up, partially because there were less countries here, but also because I’ve improved so much,” said Malacinski. “I think it was just shocking because I am 17 still.”
On the first day, Malacinski won a practice competition, which ended up being used since conditions were poor ahead of the scheduled event. He started the race in front but wasn’t the fastest one on the course, earning fifth.
He had a great race on the second day and also had his best jump in the 10-kilometer race. On day three, he had the third-best jump but cited exhaustion as the reason he “only got” sixth out of 27 competitors in the race.
Malacinski, who trains with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, is now third in the Continental Cup standings.
In the same Park City event last year, Malacinski finished 29th and 31st. So what’s changed since December 2019? Just about everything.
“A lot of it is lifestyle,” said Malacinski’s SSWSC coach Karl Denney. “He’s been really serious about nutrition and doing all the small things like mobility and stretching just on his own time. On top of that, he’s putting in the extra time. If he’s got a free hour, he’ll go out and grab his cross country skis and ski for an hour. Those little things add up over time, and they’re coming through in a big way.”
Malacinski was introduced to this lifestyle while training with a team in Austria and Finland this past summer. There, he saw how the athlete mindset didn’t stop when the skis were put away. His peers were constantly thinking about what they could do to be better and what choices they could make to improve themselves.
Seeing their success, Malacinski began implementing that attitude, and the results are showing.
“Just keeping my goals in the back of my mind, even when I’m not training,” Malacinski said. “I’ll do anything that’ll benefit my career and my future.”
In Park City, Malacinski beat out athletes much older than him who have more mature builds. Denney said typically in Nordic combined, athletes’ aerobic capacities increase with age, making their cross country times faster. However, jumping is not as linear.
Malacinski has been competing for years, but ever since the Youth Olympics, he has launched his athletic career to new heights. At the games in Lausanne, Switzerland, in February, Malacinski finished fifth, making him one of the best young ski jumpers not just in America, but the world.
“I live with him, so I see what he does on a day-to-day basis, how he trains,” said Niklas’ sister Annika, who is a U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team member. “I just have to say that he 100% deserves this success that he’s having because he has trained his ass off to be where he is right now.”
The Olympic hopeful has always eaten well thanks to the healthy cooking of his mom Essi, but he’s even more aware of what he puts in his body. He wakes up as early as 5:45 a.m. to get in some training before breakfast.
“I’m not really on a diet, but my mom is definitely very knowledgeable of the nutrition world,” he said. “She’s definitely helped me have a healthy lifestyle. … She’s also the one who pushes me to go to yoga and swimming that obviously are going to benefit me but is something I might not like to go to.”
The high school junior fills his day with more training and school, which he takes online whenever he has time. The schedule is flexible to allow him to travel.
A lot of his time, especially in the winter, is spent on the road in Europe. Malacinski is happy with how often he’s able to see his family, but he does wish he could be a little more like any other 17-year-old and hang out with his friends more often.
“There’s points where I am missing out on stuff, but for me, it’s worth it,” he said.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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