Silver lining: Williams medals at X Games
Parkite cites newfound mindset for his success
Heading into the 2017 X Games in Aspen, Park City native McRae Williams knew what was at stake. He was fresh off his first career World Cup win, but with the mecca of winter sports competitions in the X Games on the horizon, he knew there was no time to rest.
Instead, Williams carried the momentum he gained in France two weekends ago into Aspen. After qualifying on the first day of the event with the third-best score, the 26-year-old Parkite knew he had to come out swinging in the Finals. He did just that by throwing down a 93.33 on his first of two runs, which after the first round was good enough for the top spot.
However, a huge run (93.33) from Norway’s Oystein Braaten bumped Williams down to the second peg of the podium, but his first X Games medal since 2014 was good enough for him.
“Amazing contest,” Williams said in an interview with the Park Record. “Everybody absolutely killed it. I’m super stoked for [Braaten]. He’s just a machine and [Alex Beaulieu-Marchand], who was in third, is a good friend of mine. I couldn’t have been more stoked on the podium and how the whole event panned out.”
The X Games switched to a two-round format this year in the Finals, something Williams and the rest of the competitors weren’t big fans of. Instead of attempting their best runs three times, giving them a good chance of landing at least one of them, competitors were opting to go with safer runs to ensure a good score.
This was one of the main reasons why, on his first run, Williams was a little tentative on what was a very tricky rail section.
“It doesn’t seem like that much more, a third chance, but really it makes all the difference,” Williams said. “With the two runs, you’re definitely trying to do something you know you can land. It’s disappointing and I think [the X Games] got the memo, so I’m hoping next year they bring back the three-round format.”
At 26 years old, Williams is going through a career renaissance, of sorts. In the first month of the new year, he’s recorded his first World Cup victory in France, as well added to his X Games hardware this last weekend after going winless in all of 2016.
Williams wanted to make some changes heading in to 2017.
“I had a pretty rough summer,” Williams said. “I was just getting down on myself. … I’ve been a little bit down, worrying about the end of my career and stuff. I was wanting to do well and having some pretty bad results toward the end of last year. I was losing my self-confidence.”
This is where a simple book came into play. Williams has been reading a book called “The Mindful Athlete” by George Mumford, and quite simply, it’s drastically altered his career.
Mumford is a well-known name in basketball, specifically, and he’s helped a large number of high-profile athletes, such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom revive their careers. He decided to put his methodology and thinking into a book, which Williams got his hands on toward the end of 2016.
Since diving into “The Mindful Athlete,” Williams hasn’t been the same skier, or the same person.
“It is kind of tailored toward sports and related to sports, but everything I’ve read in the book is definitely relatable to life in general,” he said. “I’ve noticed everything from just getting frustrated about the timing of things to competing, it’s just everything is mental. Just trying to be positive and be stoked and be happy has really changed a lot.
“It’s really just been life-changing.”
Williams admits since taking silver at this year’s X Games, life has been somewhat of a blur. From celebrating the night after the competition to packing up and driving 15 hours to Mammoth for the next stop for the Grand Prix tour, he’s been a little tired, a little fatigued and, frankly, a little off in his day-to-day routine.
The athlete, though, hopes to continue to ride the wave of momentum he created in 2017 with his newfound view on competing and on life. He’s had success at Mammoth in the past, taking second there last season, so he thinks his odds are looking pretty good.
“I’m hopefully going to get some good rest tonight and get things back on track,” Williams said on Monday night. “It’s a pretty big deal. We’ve got the Grand Prix here this week and it’s our first Olympic qualifier. I’m just trying to keep this momentum going and telling myself in my head, ‘You’re going to win. You’re going to do well. Today’s going to be a good day. I’m just thinking positive and it’s really working.”
Time will tell if it’ll work in Mammoth, but if the last two competitions are any indicator, there’s a good chance Williams will find himself back on the podium for his third competition in a row.
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Park City defeated Uintah 6-0 in its season opener in front of a packed home crowd.