Cortina, Italy, in the heart of the Dolomites, hosted the Alpine World Championships over a two week period, February 8-21, gathering 600 athletes from 71 Nations to compete in 13 events. Among those athletes competing for a spot on the podium were FIVE GMVS alumni, representing 5 different countries:
Charlie Raposo (‘14), British Alpine Team
Ali Nullmeyer (‘16), Canadian National Team
AJ Ginnis (11), Greek National Team
Ben Ritchie (‘19), U.S. Ski Team
Cristian Riis (‘20), Danish National Team
This year’s FIS calendar is packed with races, in mountain towns around the world, but World Championships stand out from the rest. “It’s the biggest single race of the season and an event that every athlete looks forward to qualifying for and competing in,” notes AJ Ginnis.
Prior to World Championships, Ali Nullmeyer returned to the Mad River Valley to train in the Kelly Brush Race Arena, experience the NEW high-speed T-bar, and prepare for her biggest races of the season. In between sessions she even carved out time to connect with current GMVS athletes to talk about her experiences racing, returning from injury, and staying calm, cool, and collected even when in the spotlight on the world stage.
In Ali’s words, “It was a great experience to be at World Champs again! It’s always a fun event and you never know what can happen. I didn’t ski up to my expectations, but I was excited to be on a new race hill and gain more experience amongst the best in the world. Leading in to World Champs I came back to Vermont to train at GMVS, which was nice to get some turns in closer to home before heading back over to Europe. Looking ahead, I am excited to get in some more training before our next race in Jasna (Slovakia) to finish the season strong.”
Ben Ritchie, a Waitsfield, VT native, had a challenging season leading into World Championships with a series of disqualifications and DNFs, but it was only a matter of time before he put together two strong runs. Just at the right moment, the week leading into World Championships, in Meiringen Hasliberg, Switzerland at the European Cup Slalom, Ben put those pieces together and landed on top of the podium with gold. Seizing the moment, Ben carried the momentum from Switzerland to Italy and landed a career best 13th place finish in the men’s slalom.
“It felt great to get the opportunity to race at the World Championships” says Ben. “My goal going in was to try to ski my best and let the results take care of themselves. I try to get in the mindset like it’s any other race, to eliminate the nerves.”
With the success of World Champs under his belt, Ben is looking ahead to World Juniors in Bansko, Bulgaria March 3-10. Ben notes, “I am feeling confident going into the rest of the season, with World Junior’s coming up at the beginning of March.” We’ll be cheering for you, Ben!
Joining Ben in the Men’s World Championship slalom race was AJ Ginnis, a Greek National who experienced early season success, earning the title as the first Greek skier to earn World Cup points with a career best finish in Flachau, Austria.
AJ shared these thoughts about his experience: “Representing my country at World Champs was an honor. Going into the event my expectation and goal was to showcase my best skiing ability. My team and I crafted a solid ‘prep plan’ leading into Worlds which included training at challenging venues such as Niederthai, Austria and Toblach, Italy with other national teams. It’s always good training with other top level athletes in order to push yourself–[and] it’s especially fun when those athletes are some of your best friends. I was very fortunate in that sense to get in some training days with fellow GMVS alum Ben Ritchie; it’s always a blast being on the hill with him.”
AJ continues, “Ben and I usually spend some quality time together on race day, from inspection to warm ups to the start gate. We discuss the course and the conditions after inspection and in the start we usually start back to back which is awesome because although skiing is an extremely individualistic sport it’s nice to have your buddy next to you.”
As the slalom season is coming to a close for the World Cup athletes, they’re reflecting on the season. AJ notes, “Although I might not have had the greatest results on black and white this season, with the exception of an 11th place finish at the Flachau WC, I am extremely proud of the skiing my team and I showcased. Showing speed and good skiing in all the World Cup races this year and a green light on a split at World Champs was all I could have asked for after making the decision last season to ski for Greece. My coach, Sandy Vietze and I (with no experience whatsoever) took a swing at competing against the best in the world on our own terms and I must say I’m extremely proud of where we stand today. We started training late in the off season and made a ton of mistakes along the way, but we also did a lot of things right.”
AJ and Sandy were close classmates, teammates, and friends at GMVS. Sandy grew up racing at Mad River Glen and then attended Green Mountain Valley School for the inaugural 7th grade program. After graduating from GMVS in 2011, he continued to pursue his passion, traveling the world with the U.S. Ski Team, then racing for The University of Vermont, and the Redneck Racing Team. This year Sandy and AJ navigated the challenging race season together, and developed a new coach-athlete relationship that lays a strong foundation for the future.
While the World Championships have come to a close, AJ and the others are looking ahead to the remainder of the year and beyond. “I’m very excited to finish off the World Cup season in March and I’m even more excited to get to work with Sandy this off season and improve on the base we built,” notes AJ.
Congratulations to all of the GMVS athletes who have earned themselves a place on the world stage. We’re proud of each and every one of you and we’ll continue to cheer you on. Go GUMBIES!