A shot from Cannon
Olympic ski racer Julia Ford: A shot from Cannon Mountain
U.S. Olympian Julia Ford of Holderness, during a recent visit to Cannon Mountain in Franconia. (KATHLEEN BAGLIO HUMPHREYS PHOTO)
Better known as a downhill specialist, Ford is scheduled to make her Olympic debut in the slalom on Friday.
Whether she's skiing at Cannon or on the world stage, in the downhill or the slalom, Ford is driven by the same basic motivation: She loves to go fast.
"I love to be back here and at Cannon," she said, a broad smile crossing her face. "We call coming back home and doing some skiing 'getting some home-cooking' before heading off to do races. This takes me back to where I came from and reminds me why I ski and why I love it, and it's awesome to see all the people I love and who helped me get to where I am. It's always nice to come back."
Sochi and the Olympics, she realized, would provide a far different environment.
"I've been trying to anticipate how I'll have to try to control my emotions and the pressure, but I'll just get in the gate and take a deep breath and smile and just go as fast as I can," she said. "It's the Olympics and anything can happen, and I have nothing to lose."
"It comes down to preparing for it, and that's what I'm doing here at Cannon, and during the next two weeks, I'm going to prepare the best I can, mentally and physically, so when I'm in the gate I can say I've done everything I can do to perform the best I can," she said. "Ski racing is a funny sport; you never know what can happen — weather or the course — and I'll take it day by day until I get there."
Watching Ford train and provide coaching were some of her former Holderness School coaches, including Georg Capaul. "She was absolutely great to coach," said Capaul, now assistant athletics director and director of snow sports at Holderness. "She listened well, worked hard and was always the first one out on the hill and the last one leaving the trails. Julia always executed well and asked questions."
"It's fantastic. To make the Olympic team is an achievement, and to become a member of the Olympic family, it's big," he said."
Ford has fond memories of her time at Holderness, where her father, Duane, is director of residential life and assistant football coach, and her mother, Lori, is an assistant ski coach.
"Julia has always loved this sport," Lori said. "She has a great passion for it, and she goes out and has fun and enjoys what she is doing, and she is a hard worker. I'm excited for her."
The days Ford spent at Cannon this month coincided with the Franconia Ski Club's speed camp on the mountain, so she took her runs while the FSC skiers were on lunch break. The younger athletes, though, were more interested in watching an Olympian train than in devouring their PB&J's.
"Anything is possible that you put your mind to and work hard at, whether in ski racing or in life," she said. "It's a lot of hard work and perseverance. Just keep smiling and have fun. We're out there because we love skiing".