Have you ever noticed while you are watching the “pre-race” shots, or the pictures the day before the race, all the World Cup athletes seem to have a little “shadow” around them? For me, that little shadow has a curly mustache, a French accent, and a silly little giggle. He is my wax technician, and the man in charge of organizing, managing, and waxing the skis I race on.
This man in my shadow has been working with me for five years now. When he joined the team, he joined a staff of six other technicians from all over the world, working under the roof of “United States Ski Team”. The first years were spent getting to know my style of skiing, my style of kick, and my brand of skis.
This man in my shadow is part of my team, but also part of the “big team”. On the US Ski Team, all the technicians work together to make a glide, and a kick call. They often arrive to the venue around four to five hours before the race, testing and gliding to pick a wax for the entire team. From there, each technician is in charge of one man and one women’s waxing. They apply the “team call on wax” to three or four of the athlete’s best pair of skis for the day. One and a half hours before the start, the athlete arrives, and the technician and athlete ski around and pick the best pair of skis, and then dial in that pair of skis perfectly for the race. Thirty to forty minutes before the start of the race, the technician goes racing back to the wax truck, and applies the finishing powders and speedy wax to the skis to make them race ready. From there, they run the skis to the start, click them on the athletes feet, and the race is on!
The man in the shadow is a huge piece of the athlete’s success or dissapointments. A pair of skis can both “make” or “break” a day. The man in the shadow has the finishing touches on their athlete’s dreams and goals. Stress, chaos, crazy weather…. all these elements are something the technician must take on without showing visual stress. Their confidence in their work is contagious to the athlete. Some of my most successful races in my career have been when “the man in my shadow” has convinced me that he will perform magic on my skis in stressful weather situations. Because of a mutual trust, I put my belief In his work, and he puts his belief in mine.
The man in the shadow has a heart of his own. On the days he doesn’t succeed, it is often as hard for him as it is for me. But you are a team, so you take the time to learn from it so that you are better next time. All you can expect is his best, the same you expect of yourself. On the days you succeed, you know his hard work was 50% of the opportunity! You are a team, with the same dream.
The man in the shadow is a keeper of my ski fleet. I have approximately fifty different skis, for fifty different conditions. Skis vary in flex, grinds, construction, length, wax pockets, models, and more. When one pair may look like the other, the “man in the shadow” knows better. He spends all day working in the wax truck, competing against all the other “best in the world” technicians trying to create the “best skis in the world”.
The man in my shadow is Jean-Pascal Laurin. He has been my technician for five years now, and he has had the finishing touches on my best and worst races. He knows when to crack a joke before the start to ensure I am still having fun, and he knows when to tell me to get focused. He is working his butt off for a common goal. This job wouldn’t be possible without him, and the team of technicians that make up our waxing staff. So next time you see the little shadow skiing around with us, make sure you give an extra cheer for them too. We couldn’t be here without them!
A massive thank you to JP and all the other incredible technicians that are part of our team! We may not get to bring you up onto the podium on our amazing days, but I can guarantee your shadow will be there!