From Jump Hill to Mixed Zone
An athlete’s experience on the other side of the fence BY EMILY COOK
Inspecting the Birds of Prey downhill course.
BEAVER CREEK, COLO. — The crowd, packed
tightly in the finish area of the Birds of Prey Beaver
Creek GS course, erupted in an emotional cry as the
first of Ted Ligety’s split times flashed green on the
screen at the bottom of the course. I looked around,
shocked by the electric feeling of hundreds of people
focused on one outcome — Ligety’s impending victory
— then quickly turned my eyes back to the screen.
Another split time, again green. Ligety was still leading. Somehow the crowd became even more animated and united in their cheers. Chills literally ran down
my spine as I anticipated the completion of the race.
As Ligety crossed the finish line and his final time
revealed a long-awaited Birds of Prey win, the crowd
exploded. Coaches, technicians and fans hugged
and jumped up and down, waving flags and ringing
cowbells. A tangible energy filled the air and Ligety
fell to the ground in a combination of what could only
be interpreted as pure exhaustion and joy.
A spectator and a member of the media, I was surprised at the similarities in emotion I felt.
As an athlete, I’m not usually a participant in this
expansive scene. Instead of the excitement felt by
a spectator, I usually feel a calm concentration while
competing. Once I’m in the finish area, the feeling of
elation when a successful jump has been completed
is often dominated by evaluation, intensity and focus.
Adrenaline and emotion take over only when the act
of competition is complete; it’s a dramatic surge compared to the calm needed throughout the day.