U.S. skier Fiala makes ‘A’ team after best season ever
FRISCO – Some might say Frisco resident Jakub Fiala is a late bloomer. At 27, he just wrapped up his seventh year with the U.S. Ski Team, and it just happened to be his best World Cup season ever.
Fiala went into the season hoping he would finish top 30 in a few of the races, because if he didn’t, his coaches told him he’d be off the team.
Instead of meeting that goal, the Quantum Ski Club alumnus had a series of top-20 finishes, including a 12th place at the World Championship downhill Feb. 8 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was the top American to finish the race, even beating teammate Bode Miller, who went on to medal in other events.
Fiala went into the World Championships with a 15th-place super G and an 18th-place downhill finish already under his belt from the Kitzbühel, Austria, World Cup at the end of January.
“He had the best season of his career, bar none,” said U.S. Alpine Team head coach Phil McNichol, who coached Fiala when he was 14 years old and skiing for Ski Club Vail. “He broke through a level he’s surely been capable of. He’s been yet to achieve the things he did this year, and I don’t think he’s reached his full potential yet.”
McNichol pointed out that the U.S. Team is “a performance organization” that sets standards for its athletes to meet, and that, up until this season, Fiala was proving a bit “flat.”
“We called the question on Jake last year. I think that stimulated him,” McNichol said. “It woke him up. He did what he did this season on his own, but we pushed him a little.”
Fiala attributes his success this season to a combination of things. On top of the added pressure to perform, he said the coaching staff and his equipment helped him meet and exceed his goals.
“This year helped me a lot with my confidence,” Fiala said. “My coaching was great, my equipment was great, the service was really good. Everything was just in line.”
Fiala said the races in Kitzbühel, a notoriously dangerous venue, were the highlight of his season. In addition to his own ground-breaking results in the races there, the fact that his teammate Daron Ralves won the downhill event made it especially exciting.
“That’s the ultimate race for us,” he said. “That’s the one everyone wants to win, Europeans and Americans. And it was my best race. It’s the toughest course in the World Cup. It’s dangerous, long, icy, steep … it’s a legend.
“Then, the fans there … there was like 85,000 there for the downhill.”
Fiala wrapped up his season by sweeping nearly all of the Rocky Mountain Division FIS races two weeks ago in Breckenridge and Vail, save one super G loss to Aspen’s Casey Puckett by a hundredth of a second. Fiala is now ranked 31st in the world for downhill and 34th for super G.
After seven years, he is now on the U.S. “A” Team for the first time and will have a full season of training, beginning with equipment testing in Whistler, British Columbia, May 4 and continuing with a June training camp in France, an August session in New Zealand and a preseason camp in September in Chile.
“I think it just gets better from here,” he said. “This year, I missed World Cup finals (top 25) by just a little bit. So, that’s a goal. I want to be consistently top 15 and get some podiums mixed in there. I know I have glimpses of being just as fast (as the top World Cup skiers), but it’s the consistency I need. It’s time to start building to 2006. I definitely want to medal in the Olympics.”
The Sports People series will focus on active Summit Countians every Tuesday in the Summit Daily.
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