Staying in my bubble

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Tim Jitloff finished 16th in the giant slalom at the FIS World Ski Championships in 2013. He's hoping to improve on that ranking in Sochi.

Imagine free-falling for 10 seconds into a stadium filled with 25,000 fans screaming. That will give you an idea of what is like to ski at Adelboden, Switzerland, the site of one of our final World Cup races before the Sochi Olympics.

Adelboden is known on the World Cup tour as one of the classic hills that everyone wants to win. It is also one of the toughest hills. The course runs over a lot of terrain and finishes down one of the steepest pitches in the world. That’s where that “free fall” comes in.

I skied really well in Adelboden. The first run was a race based on conditions, meaning if you go first, you usually end up in first place; the earlier you go, the better. I was the only racer from the later start numbers to come down into the first 15 guys. I could tell that I was skiing well because I could hear the crowd screaming as I came around the corner before the free fall into the finish. I ended up 13th on the run.

Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Tim Jitloff felt like a weight had been lifted after he was named to the Olympic team on Jan. 26. In 2010, Jitloff traveled to the Vancouver Olympics but didn't compete.

Adelboden is also famous for a difficult-to-ski second run because of the setting sun and changing light. Unfortunately for me, this held true. On my second run I came over a roll that was in bright sunlight and into a shady part of the course. The next gate was blue and I couldn’t see it. I did see something to my right, which I thought was the gate itself. But the time I was at the peak of the roll I realized it was the outside gate. That mistake cost me valuable time and pushed me back to 24th place on the day.

After Adelboden, I won a famous giant slalom FIS race in Kirchberg, Austria, for the second year in a row, was 13th in the World Cup combi in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and won my first Europa Cup GS of the season in Crans Montana, Switzerland. Though these races were “filler” ones, they helped keep the momentum going. As we say on tour, “a win is a win is a win.”

Shortly after, on Jan. 26, it was announced that I had been selected to race the giant slalom at the Olympics based on my solid results from the season. It doesn’t matter who you are, it is always a great feeling to know that you are going to the Olympics. I could move on to the next World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland, without the weight of qualification on my shoulders.

This was really good, because St. Moritz, on Feb. 2, was a very rough day. The conditions were extremely difficult. No visibility and bad snow conditions made for a tough race. I fought the best I could but after almost exploding in the first run, I decided to ski solidly in the second run and limit my risk. I ended up 17th. Not my best work, but it is nice to know that if I ski mediocre, I can still be in there.

And now it is finally time for the Sochi Games! I will continue to train and prepare for the giant slalom race on Feb. 19 by staying here in Bayern, Germany, until the 14th -- as late as possible. Staying in my bubble works well for me, and allows me to stay fresh and fit. I have only one chance at the Olympics and I want to make it count.

Heading into Sochi, I want to take a moment to thank my lovely girlfriend, Anja. These past couple of years, to get to this point, have required an unbelievable amount of patience and understanding from her. She has come to all my races (when possible) to support me, and at the end of the day, is my rock when I come home from a good day or a bad one. She is there through all of the nitty-gritty that no one sees. As athletes we all have sponsors, family and friends backing us. Without them, nothing would be possible. I am fortunate to have some amazing people backing me, and I am very lucky that Anja is one of them. Thank you!

Now let’s go to Sochi!

Reach me at: www.timjitloff.com / Twitter: @T_Jit / Facebook.com/TimJitloff

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