Daron Rahlves: the legend of downhill
U.S. Ski Team champion inspires athletes by sharing his experience in ski racing
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“Make it happen and have fun” is the motto of former US Ski Team downhiller Daron Rahlves, who shared his lifelong passion and world class experience with roughly 40 Sierra Nevada College athletes on campus Monday, Oct. 3, including members of the ski and soccer teams. Spending a Monday night with a legend of ski racing is not an opportunity that often presents itself. His accomplishments include 12 World Cup victories, 28 podiums, and becoming an Olympic athlete who made history on the US Ski Team during his fifteen-year career, which ended in 2006. Now he still lives out of ski racing, being ambassador of the Sugar Bowl Academy while living in Truckee.
Great athletes often like to share their positive, “never say die” mindset that usually characterize them. While showing some of the most awe striking performances and some brutal crushes, Rahlves threw himself back in the race, taking the audiences along, and commenting on some of his experiences.
“Take control, it’s all within yourself. There is no reason to hold back,” said Rahlves. The way he attacked the challenging race terrain demonstrated and offered evidence of the words he preached. Along with this idea, one of his greatest fear is “not taking advantage of all opportunities to shine,” which can be translated into optimism and proof of his biggest motivation: shining every time there is the opportunity to do so—in fact, every day.
Confidence and determination are part of Rahlves’s success. He shared with the public his habits on the race day- he didn’t like to watch the other racers skiing before him. “I liked to stick with my own game plan,” said Rahlves. He was the only one able to determine the result of the performance. On the game day, “go out and do your best,” simply said Rahlves. To do so, he used to get in the zone, “creating a little bubble around me”. Along with that, he highlighted the importance of always be surrounded by people that have “supportive, positive attitude,” confirming that even in individual sports like ski racing, people are part of the game and can contribute to make it better.
His confidence at the start gate was a reflection of all the work that comes before the performance moment- the tough physical conditioning as well as the mental training. To be always at 100% on the race day, and to be assertive about it, he marked the importance of physical training in the off season, such as strength building. Along with the body conditioning, he spent his preseason working on his mental strength by visualizing the performance, thinking about past hill races and skiing them from his room. An avid reader of books of sport champions and high-achievers, Rahlves shared the story of a golf player who spent four year in prison, and every day he practiced in his mind the holes of his home course. At the first tournament he competed on after being released, he won, on the same course.
“Daron’s talk was a good reminder that mindset is everything when you enter a competition,” said Junior Hayden Takahashi, goal keeper for the Eagles, who was able to relate with Daron although she never competed in skiing. “The women’s soccer team is still new, and while we are looking to dominate on the field, we have faced incredibly tough losses. Those losses have inspired an unrelenting dedication to become the most positive team on the field. When we play, our top priority is maintaining a healthy mindset. Our last few games have been a good step in the right direction. We owe it to changing the way we think,” said Takahashi.
When chasing for gold, an athlete needs a plan. “Figure out what you want to do, set these goals and then work your way backward,” said Rahlves. Goal setting lays out the foundation for success. Short-term goals juxtapose long-term goals. The firsts are more realistic, and represent the necessary steps to take in order to reach the long term or “wish” goals, that go up to two or three years in the future.
Along with firing up athletes for the seasons, Rahlves touched on details about specific training and habits that the athletes took to heart. Senior Henriette Husebye Haug for example followed Rahlves advise of doing a stretching session every night, before going to sleep, as flexibility enhance performance. “I feel better and more loose, so I am making it part of my routine. I sleep better too,” said Haug.
No matter if one skis, plays soccer or engages in any other activity, the mental side and the ultimate passion for it do make the difference– athletes like Daron Rahlves are examples of the reach of human potential.