B: What are you working on in your skiing?
J: I’m always working on something, which is what makes the sport interesting – you’re never at the point where you’re like, “I’m perfect, I’ve got this, it’s cool.” No one ever gets to the point where they aren’t working on something.
I’m 28 years old, I’m at a point in my career where I need to be honing my backup technique. Things don’t go perfectly in a race. You should always have a race plan – how you want to ski it – but in 99 percent of my races I don’t follow my perfect race plan. Being able to think during a race, change your plan, be flexible, and adapt is huge.
B: You’ve experienced success on the biggest stages in cross country skiing. What have you learned from your Olympic and World Cup Experiences… from winning a gold medal?
J: People talk about your baseline level of happiness, and how big life events don’t really shift that line. I’m a pretty happy person in general. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many life perks of winning the Olympics … but I didn’t suddenly become happier. Winning a gold medal didn’t change my day-to-day life or solve all of my problems.
It’s chasing down a goal that matters. That’s gonna stay with you and fulfill you. Whether or not you get to the ultimate goal is not as important as how you try to chase it down.
What I really love is training hard and having fun and pursuing excellence with my teammates. That’s what made me feel awesome before the gold medal, and that’s what makes me feel awesome after it.
We race to find the best in ourselves. We don’t necessarily race to win. We race to chase after the ultimate perfect performance, but not necessarily to beat someone else. I really believe that. If you race just to win, you’re going to be so disappointed because the medal ceremony lasts 10 minutes and then your life is more or less the same.
There’s a lot you can do with a gold medal, but who you are as a person doesn’t change. You still have to work on that.
B: I’ve seen you in the coaching role a few times lately. What’s it like to switch from athlete to coach?
J: I think coaching is super cool because it forces you to think about the technique of what you are teaching. It means I have to have an amazing understanding of the subject – it’s not like I can just say, “Do what I do.” Coaching asks me to communicate to different people, to help them understand things in their language.
Coaching is a game, taking the puzzle pieces of how to share what you have learned about a sport and bringing it to the people in front of you. Yeah, it can be challenging, especially teaching someone who hasn’t done the sport before, but it’s even more rewarding to see them succeed.
Photo Credit: Reese Brown courtesy of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.