Starting off the telemark ski World Cup season in Slovenia on Saturday, Tommy Gogolen of Summit County finished in the middle of the field, an accomplishment for a skier who has undergone two knee surgeries in two years.
"Forty-two races started. I skied to a fair 26th (maybe 25th - the results are not out yet)," Gogolen said by way of the U.S. Telemark Ski Association website. "Although it is just one day, it has been a long time of preparing for this day. Lots and lots of physical therapy, countless days in the gym and plenty of training over the past seven months to get to actually just be able to race. ... I am pleased to say it feels great just to be able to compete at this high level. Just a few months ago, I could not even run. Today, all the hard work paid off as I had the opportunity to ski against the best telemark skiers in the world. The knee did great."
Gogolen has said his biggest challenge this season is overcoming the mental challenges surrounding a second ACL tear in the same knee - the one that he rehabbed last year to put him 10th in World Cup rankings last season.
"Training (went) really well. We took it really easy with my knee, not pushing it," Gogolen said before he set off for Slovenia. He'd been in the gym daily for three weeks before he got on the snow just weeks before the World Cup race. Last season, he was rehabbing up until the start of the season, so Gogolen is hopeful he'll have a leg up this time around.
"Mentally, I feel a lot better, too. ... My knee is strong. I'm jumping, I'm pounding on it and it's good," Gogolen said.
He's in the middle of the field now, but he's hopeful he'll bump up to the top 20 in the classic races.
"I hope to have an advantage over those guys, living at altitude," Gogolen said, adding that he'd been studying the Norwegians and French to learn what the top athletes in the field are doing to win.
Now that the races are under way, Gogolen sees his closest and toughest competition as fellow American Cory Snyder, who was skiing well in training. The first day in Slovenia, Snyder didn't have as good a showing as Gogolen, falling just before the jump in the first run and just after it in the second. The second fall was enough to earn a DNF after he slid on his stomach through a gate, the U.S. Telemark Ski Association reported.
Gogolen is only looking to improve as the season goes on.