Athletes talk 2019 FIS Freestyle, Snowboarding and Freeski World Championships behind the scenes of promo (with video)
On Saturday, Oct. 27, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s Center of Excellence was nearly empty with the exception of the trampoline area. Tucked back into the back opposite corner from the building’s entrance, the trampoline was lit by two lights set up by Good Company, a local ski film production team led by local freestyle skier Tom Wallisch.
“How does it look?” Wallisch said, jumping into the light. He struck different poses at the top of each bounce: running, tucked into a grab, then arms and legs akimbo.
Good Company was there as the vanguard of a promotional campaign for the 2019 FIS Freestyle, Snowboarding and Freeski World Championships, which are set to be held at Deer Valley, Park City Mountain and Solitude through Feb. 1-10, 2019. With just over 100 days until the event, Good Company’s video – featuring some of U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s most visible athletes – will be one of the first teasers to come out.
It would showcase athletes that live or train in the area, and Summit County itself, through clips depicting scenes like freestyle skier Brita Sigourney fly fishing; the aerials team practicing at the Utah Olympic Park, snowboarders Red Gerard and Kyle Mack golfing at Canyons.
But the shoot in the COE was about hard work. Or, at least, the appearance of hard work.
Wallisch’s practice jumps on the trampoline were stand-ins for slopestyle Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen, who was sitting nearby, scrolling through his phone and talking with Wallisch.
The shoot would also include aerials World Champion Ashley Caldwell and moguls World Championship bronze medal winner Jaelin Kauf, both of whom had just arrived and were watching from the mats behind the cameras.
When the crew was comfortable with the lights, Christensen hopped on.
“Want me to double bounce you for the shot?” Wallisch joked.
Christensen declined, and, once the cameras were rolling, jumped into a series of cork 720s and double cork set ups. After a few minutes, he got tired, took a break to chat with Wallisch, Caldwell and Kauf, then hopped back on.
The 26-year-old’s easy movement belied the effects of a string of accidents that had forced him to reevaluate his career this spring.
He tore his ACL and meniscus in May of 2017. Then, he landed awkwardly during training and broke his thumb that December, requiring the placement of a cadaver bone plus three screws and two pins. Finally, during an effort to prepare for the Olympics, he re-injured his knee at the end of January. All told, he finished the season with four knee surgeries and two hand surgeries.
“I definitely had to sit back this spring and decide if I wanted to keep doing it or not,” he said after he got off the trampoline.
But the allure of skiing, and a World Championship, was too powerful. After some time away, he said he found his passion for the sport again, and had recently finished a productive training camp.
Caldwell, 25, was also coming off an injury.
During a practice run at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, she had landed hard on her side, separating her clavicle from her shoulder.
She competed anyway, taking 17th.
“It wasn’t my best performance,” Caldwell said. “I thought I could rehab back but I ended up getting to the point where I was like, ‘I can’t do this without having surgery.'”
She recalled the sensation of her collarbone floating around in her chest as she drove her car, which she said felt strange.
Kauf was the only one who wasn’t coming off a surgery.
Wallisch asked her if she was “healthy and happy,” to which she said yes.
“Nice,” Wallisch replied. “That’s tough to find these days. I don’t think I run into anybody that’s like ‘Yeah, I’m healthy!'”
The crew finished shooting with Christensen, broke down the set and moved the lights downstairs to the gym, where they would shoot Kauf and Caldwell.
She got on the machine to show the crew what the exercise looks like: she lay with a padded bar holding her ankles down, and lifted her body like a plank, facing the ceiling, moving her arms to mimic her aerials routine.
The crew wanted to depict athletes putting in extra hours before the championships, and thought Caldwell’s workout would look good spliced with flashbacks from the FIS Visa Freestyle Ski World Cup last year at Deer Valley.
She and Kauf both consider the venue the jewel of their sport’s competitive circuits.
“To have that be the best venue, home field advantage and to come in reigning World Champion is a lot of pressure,” Caldwell said. “But it’s also really exciting because it gives you a big opportunity to perform well.”
Kauf, 22, took first at one of the two moguls competitions at Deer Valley last season and finished seventh in Pyeongchang after a misstep early in her second run.
“I’m really excited to get back in the start gate,” she said while the crew was going through the final preparations for Caldwell’s shoot. “It feels like it’s been forever since the end of this last season.”
For Christensen, a World Championship freeski competition at Park City meant exposing a large group of athletes to the highest level of the sport.
“There’s so many freeskiers and snowboarders in town now, and they don’t have any opportunities to see the big pros come and ski besides the guys who live here – like myself and Tom and McRea (Williams),” Christensen said. “So it will be really cool to have the best skiers and snowboarders in the world come here so all the young kids in town and in Salt Lake can come up and see them live, in person, not just on Youtube. I think that’s huge.”
Organizers anticipate it will be the biggest winter sports competition in the area since the 2002 Winter Games, with 1,300 athletes from 36 countries expected to compete.
Good Company filmed Caldwell’s exercise – a slow, low-angle pan – during which she requested they get the scar from her shoulder surgery in the shot.
After she was done, they asked her to say a few intro lines to promote viewership of the event.
She said she was nervous, but her words flowed out evenly.
“I’m Ashley Caldwell, be sure to tune in to 2019 World Championships on NBC.”
Kyle Decker, the director, looked around the dark gym.
“I think we can wrap on that,” he said.
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