John Russell's sports column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Getting to the Olympics is a tough road for any athlete.
It’s even harder for athletes like Justin Reiter who are competing at the World Cup level without the help of the U.S. Ski Team.
“When I show up for races, it’s me, myself and I,” Justin said during a recent interview after placing 15th in a World Cup snowboard parallel slalom race in Bad Gastein, Austria.
Justin paid for the trip and traveled to the race by himself. He bummed a ride to the event on race day with another team and wasn’t even sure how he was going to get there when he rolled out of bed in the morning.
“I thought I might have to thumb my way or simply hike to the venue,” Justin said. “Sometimes, you take the little things, like having a ride to the race, for granted when you are part of a team. That day, I was happy just to get to the race venue.”
Once there, Justin prepared for the race by himself. There were no technicians preparing his board for the snow conditions on the course, there were no coaches there to offer him advice as he stepped into the starting gate and most of his biggest fans were there only in spirit.
Justin insists that none of that matters to him.
“Being by yourself gives you a lot of time to think about things, a lot of time to figure out what’s really important,” he said. “The truth is that once a racer steps in the starting gate — no matter how much support they have — we are all by ourselves.”
He says he’s happy to have the support of SG Snowboards and his friend Sigi Grabner, who has stepped in to sponsor the American rider this season and who provided him with a ride to his last competition.
While other teams have staff that includes coaches and technicians to help with all the details that help racers find success on the slopes, the Americans chart a more individual course to success.
This season, Justin has returned to training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, but most of the time, he is on his own at events in other countries. He is on his own when it comes to finding equipment, on his own to find coaching and on his own preparing for races.
Justin insists that he is OK with that. He said that at the end of the day, there is only one person responsible for his success on the slopes and only one person to blame if the results are not what he had hoped for. That’s the way he likes it.
At this point, he isn’t sure where his journey will take him and says representing his country at the Olympics isn’t at the top of the list. Sure, he would love to do it, but the 2014 Olympics are too far away and something he has chosen not to focus on.
Justin’s main goal is to keep stepping into the starting gate of World Cup Alpine snowboarding events to pursue a sport that he is passionate about — even if that means doing it all by himself.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com