Coming off the two World Cup weekends in the states is always a bit of a high. It gets pushed even higher when each event ends with an American atop the podium. And when a guy like Tommy Ford gets his first victory ever, in front of the home crowd, it goes completely over the top.
People at the start remarked at the zen-like composure of someone who knows his time has come, while people watching the run were simply awestruck at his top-to-bottom resolve to get the job done. By the finish line, he hadn’t just won the race; he’d run away with it, with nary a bobble to disrupt the crowd’s steady roar.
After the race, a common refrain emerged: “It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.” Ford is known to be humble and mellow and most of all, incredibly persistent. He’s also that increasingly rare gem who came up locally and developed organically. His trajectory was impressively fast and then excruciatingly slow…and he was ok with it.
The Power of Patience
Ford’s victory underscores the point from Thank You For Your Patience, that building great ski racers takes a long time. My husband and I were lucky enough to be at Tommy’s first World Cup race, in Soelden ten years ago. It was our only trip to see the Soelden races, and the only autograph we wanted was Tommy’s. His Dad, Mark, coached Chan at Dartmouth, so getting Tommy Ford signed Soelden T-shirts for our kids had special meaning.
We joked that it might have been his first autograph, but he’d soon burn through a pile of Sharpies. Ford would go on to score World Cup points that winter, and qualify for his first Olympic team. It seemed that the next American skiing phenom had launched.
But then, the roller coaster began. There were streaks of brilliance with multiple national titles in multiple events; and then there was injury, and two full seasons off snow. Then it was back to steady building, which is its own test of patience. His ability to keep moving forward, however slowly, is even more remarkable than his initial rise.
Keeping it Simple. Keeping it Real
It’s not just getting an American win that felt so good last weekend. A win for Tommy Ford is a win for old style ski racing, where great skiing, a good club, community support and perseverance can be enough. This is not a guy who could have or would have chased points across the country and the globe, or sought any other short-cuts and power boosts on the long road. Our local club kids had a hero lunch with Tommy during his spring term at Dartmouth way back in 2011. They saw a kid who came up with friends through a club a lot like theirs; a kid who was in no particular rush but was moving ahead in his life while he was moving ahead in ski racing; a kid who could have been their big brother, doing something that looked incredibly cool and fun, but also accessible.
Beyond the green light, the next greatest visual from Sunday was a podium swamped with teammates who were thrilled for Ford’s success. Most notable among them was Ligety, who appeared to have no problem shaking off his own disappointment to celebrate Tommy’s moment. It was a day that took a long time coming, and for sure lifted Ford to the spot he so deserves, but also lifted everyone around him.
Thank you for your patience, Tommy Ford!