Hi everybody! Although this may be my last blog post for a while it is not a good bye or retirement post. The tone of this may sound a little gloomy but I am truly saying this all with a smile on my face

First and foremost I apologize for being terrible at keeping my blog updated. A lot has changed in 5 months, with Nordic Combined as a whole and my perspective on things. First of all I had probably my best and most complete competitions ever in the weeks following World Junior Championships. I jumped well and skied like the devil in a very tough and experience field. The rest of the year however, did not go so well. I came down with an illness and suffered from migraines and insomnia for the remainder of my tour overseas. I finished dead last in a few competitions and failed to score any COC points. This experience was more than discouraging and my confidence and moral slipped to an all time low. Upon returning home I had blood tests done to try and figure out why I had felt so terrible and my performance had slipped. I soon learned that my iron levels had dropped to near anemic levels. Its been an uphill battle since to find my strength again but copious rest and supplements have started to help out a bit. 


Reflecting on the season there was a lot to be proud of. I made leaps in the right direction both on the jump hill and on the cross country course.. I know I had and still have it in me to accomplish every single goal I set the past summer, but I repeatedly fell short and became more discouraged as the season wore on (the health issues certainly didn't help). It's hard to continually beat your head against a wall that just seems immovable. Burnt out would be an easy way to put how I felt at the end of the year, but I still have the burning desire to achieve greatness in the sport I so dearly love and that has taught me so much about life.  So far this summer I've been training when I can get a break from running a fence building/ repair business and working at Straightline Sports to eventually become a fishing guide. The time I have taken to recuperate has already paid dividends in more than just letting my body get back to normal. The mental rest has been great.


Most everybody knows that USSA cut Nordic Combined's funding this spring completely, initially, but and agreement was reached to partially fund the A Team (World Cup Athletes) and one coach. The B Team will receive zero funding as does the Development or C Team. What does this mean for athletes like myself? From an outside view it shouldn't matter because I was never part of the US Ski Team, nor did I receive direct funding from USSA. But, there was a trickle down from the top down funding, so things like vans in Europe or wax were either paid for or discounted due to that trickle down of USSA funding. Now without the support of USSA, Nordic Combined is faced with the challenge of fundraising for a full year on the World Cup. As it should, most of the money raised will go to the top tier of US Nordic Combined skiers. This obviously leaves the developmental athletes of a sport, that most Americans have never heard of, to foot the bill for coaches, wax, equipment, and travel to Europe. This number can be upwards of $30,000 for a year per athlete. Already US Nordic Combined has raised a substantial amount of money, but not near enough to compensate for what was lost from the funding cuts. Do I take the decision to cut funding personally? Yes. But, in this modern era of skiing and the mindset of American TV viewer Nordic Combined is sadly an after thought. I think I speak for every Nordic Combined athlete in the US when I say we are going to prove the nay sayers wrong. It may be a struggle, but we have some of the most dedicated and talented athletes that are going to be ready to bring some hardware home come 2018 and 2022.

As for me, it's time to take a break. I love this sport and always will. Nordic Combined is my passion. It has made me the person I am today and given me the chance to experience many things the majority of people my age are not fortunate enough to experience. But as I explained previously the past year took a lot out of me, physically and mentally. That's what has lead me to my decision to take at least a year away from competition. I plan on attending Montana State in Bozeman, training when I can and working towards a degree in Environmental Design. I still have the same goals to be an Olympian and world champion, but I feel I need some time away from the daily grind to refresh and gain perspective. Nordic Combined has always been a resilient group and I have no doubt we can be on top of the podium in the coming Olympics. So this is not "good bye", its "See you soon". 

Thank you all so much!
Aleck Gantick
 
 
On Monday morning the team departed Predazzo, Italy en route to our base camp in Planica, Slovenia. The short route to Planica was closed due to snow, so we had to take the scenic route. Coincidentally the new route took us within 15km of Venice. At first our coach Martin Bayer was reluctant to drive into Venice for a lunch break, but teammate Erik Lynch and I convinced him to enjoy a couple hours in the floating city. We enjoyed a lunch full of calamari and other delicious seafood as we watched boats glide past us in the canals. After lunch we allotted a couple hours to explore the endless alleyways and canals. It's not everyday that a bunch of kids from Colorado get to explore a city that is literally built on water.
After our little jaunt in Venice it was up to the mountains of Slovenia where we were greeted by about 6 feet of fresh snow. Considering there was green grass when we left a week in a half earlier, it felt like a whole different place, like someone had flipped a switch and it was winter. The jumps are completely buried here, so jumping is out of the question, but I am looking forward to getting in some great cross country skiing before traveling to Klingenthal, Germany for a weekend of Continental Cup competitions. 
Stay tuned for more updates!
 
 
After a disappointing first day on the jump hill I was ready to get back to jumping how I know I can. But, sometimes jumping does not work like that. It's a very challenging sport that requires focus, confidence, strength, balance, fortitude, and sometimes luck. For what could be a multitude of reasons, I could not put together a great jump when it came to the competition. Mentally it felt like I started the week with a completed puzzle and someone came along, decided to scramble the whole thing up, and lost some of the pieces. Sometimes that's just how it goes in this crazy sport. 

Fortunately Nordic Combined is a combination of two sports, ski jumping and cross country skiing. The latter being a great outlet for frustration. Saturday was the individual 5k event. After jumping to 39th place I was ready to lay the hammer down in the pouring rain and slush. I skied one of my best races ever and finished 30th, turning in the 25th fastest time of the day. This was also my first top 30 finish in an international event, so although it was not what I know I'm capable of I was pleased. 

The next day was the was the 4 X 5km team event with Erik Lynch, Jasper Good, Ben Berend, and myself. It continued to spit rain but that didn't stop team USA from stepping it up on the jump hill. Everyone had their best jumps of the week with Ben Berend throwing down a 96.5 meter jump, putting us in 6th place. The cross country portion was difficult for all of us and we slipped to 9th place. 

Although this was a tough week for me it has been a great learning experience. Performance wise I am not where I want to be at, but it's truly all about the journey. I look forward to the challenges of becoming a better athlete and enjoying every moment. Italy was great, not only for the killer ravioli and pizza I was able to enjoy, but also for the valuable competition experience. There is a lot that goes into making it possible for athletes like myself to compete overseas. It takes a village to raise an athlete. My village is the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, my family, countless supporters around the country, and the NNF. You guys make this journey all possible. Thank you!
Thank you Romina Eggert for the awesome jumping pictures!
 
 
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We arrived in Planica, Slovenia on the 15th for our pre World Junior Championship training camp. Unfortunately, like most of Europe, we were greeted with poor snow conditions and a lot of rain. Despite the lack of snow we still managed to get some very good training in on a crowded jump hill and a short cross country loop. I had, by far, my best jumps of the season in Planica, which was a nice confidence booster preparing for World Juniors.
After our time in Planica we headed to Oberstdorf, Germany to compete in a team World Cup. Sadly, we were informed of a new rule put into effect this year stating that only competitors with Continental Cup or World Cup points are allowed to compete in any World Cup event. The only member of our team that fit that criteria was Ben Berend. Although I was a little discouraged I had to look on the bright side. It was pretty awesome to be able to spectate a World Cup and there was actually snow in Oberstdorf. So, those of us who could not compete in the World Cup were allowed to fore jump every jumping competition and get some great skiing at the cross country venue.
As soon as the World Cup was over we packed up and drove to the beautiful town of Predazzo, Italy, the site of the 2013 Nordic World Championships and this year's Junior World Championships. Needless to say, this is an amazing place to compete. 

I went into the first day of competition with confidence and high hopes, knowing that if I jumped well I had a real shot at a top 15 or 20 finish. Unfortunately I had a complete lapse in focus and had one of my worst jumps in over a month putting me in 41st place, well outside of striking distance. I was frustrated, distraught, angry, and all kinds of those emotions rolled into one. So, I decided I was going to take my anger out on the cross country course, and I did just that, for three out of four laps. I pushed the pace for a group of skiers but by the last lap I was completely out of gas. I ended up 36th out of 58 skiers with the 30th fastest time. Overall this was probably my worst competition I've had all year and it has been tough knowing it was on a big stage. But, great competitors don't give up after bad days, they pick their heads up and get ready to put the hammer down next time. Which is exactly what the plan is for tomorrow in the individual 5k event.
Time for a little redemption!


 
 
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And so it begins... Our arrival in Planica, Slovenia on Wednesday marked the beginning of a two month long stay in Europe as myself and other members of the NTG prepare for Junior World Championships and a handful of international competitions.

Our first week will be spent in Planica, Slovenia training, before venturing to Oberstdorf, Germany for a World Cup weekend. 

I would like to give a huge thanks to the countless individuals that have supported myself and all of the athletes on the Junior World Team. Stay tuned for some more updates on life in Europe!


P.S. Follow me on social media to see what I'm doing everyday.

Twitter: @AGantickNC
Instagram: gigantick

 
 
After a hard week of competitions in Park City, Utah it was time to come home and regroup for a week. I spent quite a bit of time hiking up Mount Werner and getting fresh turns in some of the best powder conditions I've ever seen. I found it beneficial to take some time away from normal training and refocus before traveling back to Park City for our final Junior World Championships tryouts. 
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An awesome powder day in the boat with the Straightline Sports crew.
Following a week of recharging mentally, I was ready to put in a good result at the JWC qualifier. I was much more pleased with my jumping and started the race in 4th, just 18 seconds out of first place. On the 3rd out of 4 laps I took control of the race and finished in first with a 24 second advantage. This was by far my most complete competition of the year. I was excited to take some steps in the right direction but I know I still have a lot of work to be at my best. Winning this race also solidified my position on the Junior World Championship team in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Also representing the USA in Italy will be fellow teammates Jasper Good, Ben Berend, Nicholas Madden, and Erik Lynch. 
After the JWC qualifier I spent the next two weeks doing a pair of local 5 kilometer races and really focusing on my jump training. I went into jump training with a new attitude, willing to make any kind of change necessary to get out of my jumping "slump". Luckily, Martin Bayer is one of the best jump coaches in the US and I've started to make some big improvements. My training jumps have started to be consistently better and I feel I'm well on the right track to put in some good results over in Europe. Our team departs for Junior World Championships on January 14th. 

A special thanks to all the individuals who donated to the National Nordic Foundation. With your help our travel expenses to Junior World Championships are greatly lower, allowing us to focus on putting up good results while overseas. You are awesome, thank you!

Stay tuned for more updates as the most exciting part of the season begins.

Also check out this article in the Steamboat Pilot about chasing Olympic dreams in Steamboat. 
 
 
The season has official started! So far we have been blessed with excellent snow conditions for early season. It's always a treat to be jumping on snow the weekend after Thanksgiving. The snow making crew at Howelsen Hill is awesome and enough thanks cannot be said for the hours they put in to make it possible for us to train this early on snow.
The first competition of the year was held in Steamboat Springs. Going into the competition I had struggled to find my footing on the jump hill but, I had confidence in knowing my home hill well enough to put together a solid competition. Unfortunately, confidence alone isn't enough sometimes. I had a very mediocre jump and started out 6th, 1:00 behind the leader. I had a fairly strong race, but I definitely went out too hard in a desperate attempt to catch the lead group of skiers. Finishing in 7th was very disappointing result for me but I was eager to do better the next day. Due to weather jumping was cancelled and a jump from the day before was used. Again I started around the same position. I skied a much smarter race and finished the day in 5th. Overall it was a good weekend of racing for me but my jumping needed to improve. 
Winter Start doubled as a qualification for Continental Cups in Park City the following week and I had solidified a starting spot. I continued to struggle on jump side of things and had begun to get a little frustrated knowing I can jump better. I jumped poorly throughout all three competitions but skied solid races everyday. I ended up with two 35th place finishes and one 34th place. I was a little discouraged as I had hoped to break into the top 30 and earn my first Continental Cup points. If there is one thing I have learned in my short 19 years on this planet it is adversity makes you stronger. The struggles are what define a human and an athlete. I walked away from the week of competition unsatisfied yet motivated to keep working harder everyday.
The only way to enjoy anything in this life is to earn it first. -Ginger Rogers
 
 
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 Lake Placid, New York has a lot of Olympic history and there is definitely something magical about the small town tucked away in the Adirondack mountains. On October 13th the best Nordic Combined and Special Jumping athletes in the nation gathered in Lake Placid for National Championships. It does seem a little strange to have a national championship event in the fall on a summerized hill and roller skis but it is nice to have the championships before everyone gets busy with competitions overseas.
 
Going into the competition I was in a bit of a slump jumping and was a little nervous with how I would do but I remained confident and ended up jumping into 2nd place. I was thrilled with my starting position in the race and I knew I could hold my own against the big guys. Unfortunately I had some severe equipment malfunctions during the race (broken rollerski wheels). By the time I received a different roller ski I had already lost too much ground on the entire field and just treated the remainder of the race as training. Needless to say I was bummed out but when something as frustrating as an equipment issue presents itself you have to take away the positives and look ahead to the next competition. 

The day after National Championships the team packed up for our final "summer" Europe training camp with US B team in Planica, Slovenia and Ramsau, Austria. Our time in Planica was amazing. We were able to take full advantage of the brand new jumping facilities jumping everyday. At first I struggled a little bit to find the rhythm of the hills but I was able to turn it around and have some very productive training sessions. During our stay in Planica we had an inter-team competition with the US B team. The jumping went pretty well for me and put me in 3rd place. That afternoon we drove to Villach, Austria for the race and I was fairly pleased with my race ending up 6th overall on the day.


After our final day of jumping in Planica we traveled to the nordic paradise known as Ramsau, Austria. While in Ramsau we were lucky enough to go up on the Dachstein glacier every morning and enjoy our first days of skiing on snow. I was happy to rack up some distance hours on snow and work on my technique. With close to 16km of perfectly groomed trails I couldn't help but smile and remember how grateful I am to be following my dream. 

Overall it was a very productive training camp. I am feeling super confident in my fitness right now and the training hours I've been putting in. Jumping will always have its up and downs but I am starting to get more and more consistent making even my mediocre jumps solid for competition. Needless to say I am ecstatic about how close winter and the competition season is. 

All I do wouldn't be possible without an amazing group of supporters. The National Nordic Foundation has been a huge help to fund the trips that will ultimately get me to a level of competition I need to be at to excel in international competition this year. Currently the NNF is in the middle of its biggest fundraiser for the year, The Drive For 25. This fundraiser asks each fan of USA nordic sports to chip in $25 or more to help fund Development athletes like myself all over the US, and then spread the word to everyone that would like to be a part of supporting the next generation of Olympic and World Champions in the US. Take a look at the NNF website and donate to the Drive For 25. Any donation big or small is greatly appreciated. https://www.grouprev.com/nnfdrivenc 


"Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible." 
        - Anonymous
 
 
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A lot has happened since my last update. After an amazing month long training camp in Europe I returned to Steamboat to train. After two weeks at home the team packed up for an intensity camp in Moab, Utah. Some people may ask why Moab for an intensity camp? Moab sits at just above 4,000 ft elevation. Which means better recovery and more speed with more oxygen. It also helps that we were greeted by blue skies everyday. 
After a week filled with 6 interval sessions it was back to Steamboat for a week and a half before Nationals in Lake Placid, New York. After enjoying 80 degree temperatures in Moab it was a little bit of a shock to come back to Steamboat and have a foot of snow fall over night. Despite the climate shock it's exciting to see winter is "slowly" returning. 
Next week we fly out to Lake Placid, New York for National Championships. It feels a little strange having nationals in the fall with zero snow on the ground, but non the less I am excited to compete against the best in the US.
After Lake Placid we will be jumping the pond for a final training camp in Europe and joining forces with the US B Team in Planica, Slovenia. 
Stay tuned for more on this exciting time of year. In the the mean time enjoy some more pictures from Moab.

 
 
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Before the Grand Prix in Villach, Austria the team met up with a group of 5 NNF donors. In the past few years the NNF and US Nordic Combined team have teamed up and put together VIP trips to Tour de France camps and the World Cup final in Oslo, Norway. These trips have attracted some of our strongest donors and supporters of USA nordic combined. This year Kerry Lynch and Hans Berend put together a trip that gave donors a chance to experience Europe with the development team. The week that we spent with the donors was awesome. It was amazing to be around a group so supportive of the future of USA Nordic Combined. The time spent with them was a great opportunity to teach them more about our sport and showcase the type of trips the NNF funds. 

Since meeting up with the VIP group we have been in Planica, Slovenia. Originally we planned to jump on the brand new hills in Planica but, there is a lot of construction still going on at the jump venue with the addition of 5 brand new junior sized hills and renovations to the ski flying hill to make it the largest ski jump in the world. So, we have been driving to nearby ski jumping facilities in Kranj, Slovenia and Villach to train. I have had a great time roller skiing on the 100k long bike path that runs from Slovenia to Italy and I've been enjoying the great views on my distance workouts.

We also took an afternoon off with the VIPs to enjoy the views of nearby Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj