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Steve Omischl - Getting Older

Steve Omischl navigates through fog and snow at Cypress Mountain to win Sunday's World Cup aerials event. (Jonathan Hayward/ Canadian Press)

Steve Omischl won his fourth World Cup in Freestyle at the inaugural event at Cypress Mountain February 10, 2008.

I may be old, but I'm way too young to be washed up just yet. @ 29 I'm about to torture my back and knees with my 8th season as a world cup aerialist. I remember when my body cooperated with me and physio was an appointment made by and for the weak. Those were the days I tell you.... oh those were the days. And if I ever forget my constant aging the "kids" on the jump 2010 team are right there to remind me.

I used to tell my friends that aerials was pretty safe and injuries weren't that common. I know what your thinking and yes, I was wrong and maybe a bit crazy. From my perspective it was more that I didn't think about the consequences of my actions. This "blinders on" attitude is what probably led me to winning 2 world cup overall titles and the 2005 world championships. I think the expression "young and dumb" comes to mind. It never crossed my mind that I could get hurt ~ that just happened to other people.

As silly as aerials may seem to most people the thought of skiing 140 km's/h on an icy downhill course seems just as careless. Tell me the impact of those crashes aren't worse then aerial carnage? My hats off to the crazy canucks.

Omischl after a World Cup freestyle skiing event in December 2007. (Xinhua Chi Haifeng/Associated Press)
As the years go by I'm starting to see the repercussions of hurling my meat 50 feet in the air day after day.

A few years ago I did around 1500 jumps on the water ramp throughout the summer and then around 500 in the winter. That's a whole lot of impact for my 155 pound frame. I've been lucky enough so far in my career to only have a few minor injuries. I guess minor in comparison to the injuries I've seen with some of my teammates. Watching 3 people fracture vertebra's in the last 5 years is bit extreme versus a few ankle sprains and some chronic back pain I've experienced.

Now that I've noticed my sprouting gray hairs, my blinders are off and my feeling of being invincible is wavering. Because of this I find myself curbing my constant taunting of karma. I am more meticulous with everything I do and no longer think it can't happen to me. I have taken a new approach to training it's made me feel more ready then ever to defend the overall title. This summer I cut the number of jumps down to around 300 and my body is saying thanks. Fewer jumps equals less impact and at the same time it demands greater focus to maximize the quality of training. With the leftover time in the training day I found myself doing more visualization and conditioning both contributing to my confidence. Not to mention a bit more surfing time in the off season to recharge my batteries.

I never though cutting technical training would have made me better, but I think it did. I would bet that most veteran athletes go through the same transition as they get older. Age obviously brings a great deal of experience to the table. Experience that taught me what it's going to take to be on my game and how long it will take me to get there each season. Older athletes have a serious advantage over the piss and vinegar of youth. I can't wait to strap my skis on this winter and show the kids on tour what it really takes. Staying injury free might mean only jumping in good safe conditions, but winning can be done at any age. I just hope I can schedule that in between physio appointments.

(This blog entry also appears in SRC Magazine)

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