Steamboat skier Giaccio wins first World Cup
Standing atop the moguls course in Ruka, Finland, Olivia Giaccio closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She spoke to herself a couple of key words, reminding herself of what she wanted to do.
“When I step into the gate, it sounds kind of cheesy, but I thank the universe for letting me get there,” Giaccio said.
With that mindset, she nailed both her tricks and flew through the course. After she got to the finish line in 25.75 seconds, she pumped her fist, fist-bumped her coaches and waited for her results.
When her score of 78.51 flashed in front of her, the emotions finally came out. Not only did the high score mean Giaccio had won the Ruka event, it put her in first place in the World Cup standings, since Saturday’s race was the first of the season.
On the qualifying run, Giaccio had the highest score, giving her confidence that she had been doing the right thing during the offseason. She’s been focused on staying mentally sound, trying to quell nerves and stress, and trusting that her work will translate into good performances.
Her second run wasn’t her best, as her first trick landing wasn’t perfect and affected the rest of her run. She was tempted to worry and overcompensate in her last run, but her calm confidence put her on top of the podium.
Giaccio, 21, last stood on a podium five years ago in her rookie season on the World Cup circuit. She was so impressive she was named an alternate for the moguls team at the 2018 Olympics.
In the following years, she suffered from lofty expectations, anxiety, increasing her degree of difficulty, a knee injury and, of course, the pandemic.
Now, she’s fully healthy and has had years to master the most difficult tricks in the sport. She’s one of the only women on the World Cup to perform a laid out back full.
Early in the course with little gathered momentum, Giaccio performed a backflip with a 360 twist and her entire body straight, as opposed to curled up. Her bottom trick was a cork 7, or an off-axis 720 spin.
Giaccio was the first woman to perform a cork 10, or an off-axis 1080, on the World Cup circuit in March 2019. It was a semi-successful attempt of the trick, which she didn’t quite land during a run in which she would have otherwise earned a “did not finish.” She’s still got the trick in her back pocket, and if she were to land it successfully, it would seal a top spot for her at any World Cup.
The win makes her an early favorite for the Olympic team. However, because the moguls team is extremely competitive, any member can earn a top finish on any day, and she isn’t guaranteed a spot yet.
“I still have a little bit more work to do to 100% secure that,” Giaccio said. “Our women’s team is really, really strong. There are seven girls including myself that are quite talented.”
Steamboat ski jumper earns career-best finish in China
Some of the U.S. Ski Jumping National Team competed in China last weekend, where Steamboat Springs athlete Erik Belshaw, 17, earned his best finish in a Continental Cup competition.
Belshaw finished 18th on day one and 16th on day two, collecting his first-ever cup points with jumps ranging from 109.5-117 meters.
Belshaw made his Continental Cup debut last year but never finished higher than 42nd. The jump marks huge progress for the young athlete.
This weekend, Belshaw and teammate Patrick Gasienica will be in Vikersund, Norway, at another Continental Cup event.
Malacinski earns top-20 finish at first women’s Nordic combined World Cup
In the women’s World Cup season opener in Lillehammer, Norway, U.S. Nordic Combined National Team member and Steamboat Springs resident Annika Malacinski took 17th.
Malacinski was regularly earning top-10 finishes at Summer Grand Prix events. The strong performances gave her loads of confidence entering the World Cup season, during which she would take on a similar field of competitors.
“I went into Norway with not too many worries,” Malacinski said. “I usually have a lot of stress and anxiety before competitions. I was just trusting the process. … I was really excited actually.”
Her training and provisional round jumps weren’t as great as she was hoping for, so her confidence was mildly shaken going into the competition round.
Malacinski jumped 75.5 meters on the Lillehammer HS98, or hill size 98, putting her in 17th. Malacinski started the 5-kilometer race in 17th, or 3 minutes and 30 seconds behind Norway’s Mari Leinan Lund, who jumped 98 meters to take first. Malacinski passed one person and was passed by another, so she finished 17th overall.
The next day, she jumped 78 meters, good for 19th. She raced tired in snowier conditions and dropped two spots to earn 21st.
“This is the first competition of the season,” she said. “This is going to be long and exciting, and this is not all I have to give or show.”
Steamboat Nordic skier takes second at Super Tour
In the first race of the Super Tour, a domestic Nordic race series, Steamboat Springs resident and U.S. Development team member Noel Keeffe finished second. Keeffe won the men’s freestyle sprint in Duluth, Minnesota, on Saturday.
Top finishes in the Super Tour events help athletes earn a spot on the Olympic team. There are Nordic national team members on the World Cup, though, who have a stronger chance due to earning World Cup points.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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