Ski: Olympian Mayerhofer Ready To Take Utes To The Top

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Time flies when you’re a winner. That’s definitely the case for the Utah ski team when its season comes to an end at NCAA Nationals next week in Colorado.

The Utes, who qualified for Nationals with a win at the RMISA Championships over the last week, will be bringing 10 of their top skiers to the final ski competition of 2016. Some of the invitees include Dominic Demschar, Julie Mohagen, Nick Hendrickson and more faces who have a lot to prove to the other top teams around the country.

One skier in particular, Veronika Mayerhofer, is excited to prove herself once again as she has all season, earning two wins and nine podium finishes. After winning Nordic MVP at RMISA, the Austrian international competitor is considered one of the favorites for Nationals by earning first-team honors.

Utah’s Director of Skiing, Kevin Sweeney, was happy to see that not only did Mayerhofer do well, but her performance also motivated other teammates to accomplish their best.

Veronika Mayerhofer, Utah Nordic Ski team Thursday, January 28, 2016 in Salt lake City, UT. (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)
Veronika Mayerhofer, Utah Nordic Ski team Thursday, January 28, 2016 in Salt lake City, UT. (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)

“You can see it in her eyes and her energy that she was at [RMISA] to make a statement,” Sweeney said. “It’s awesome to see that and the results, and it’s extremely motivating. I think it boosted confidence in not only herself to have skied so well, but also among the team.”

Mayerhofer, in her second year at the U, is satisfied with how her season went overall, but that mood can change depending on her results next week.

“The season was really solid for me,” Mayerhofer said. “I never really had a bad race, but I never had a victory until the weekend. During the season I thought I could have done better in most of the races, but I was really happy I improved over the weekend before the most important race coming up. I think the team overall had one of the best seasons since I’ve been here.”

Originally from Bad Gastein, Austria, Mayerhofer has had a lot of success in the Nordic skiing world, including being able to represent her country at many top skiing events around the world. This includes the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, where she finished 13th in the 4×5 relay with her national team. She also had successes in her country’s national championships and at the World Ski Championships.

With all her success, Mayerhofer decided to take her talents to Salt Lake City to help one of the nation’s top ski programs become even a bigger threat. Although halfway across the globe from her home, she is really happy with her choice of competing for the U and has settled in very well, thanks to her team’s support.

“I like [competing for Utah] a lot,” Mayerhofer said. “The team is the most important thing and we support each other really well. The coaches support us in any way. I just feel like I can be comfortable and be myself, and that’s what makes you a better athlete if everybody supports each other. We have a big team spirit, which is needed for college racing.”

Being a student-athlete the last two years has been a challenge for the sophomore, who plans to graduate this summer. Managing stress has also been an issue, but she feels that it makes skiing even more special, mostly because it gives her a release from all the stresses of school.

“I’ve never been this busy before with both studying and skiing, but it’s more intense with stress,” she said. “You have to find your way to combine studying and skiing. Sometimes you have to prioritize one over the other. I like the combination though because I have to do other things during the day besides skiing, so it makes it more special and fun for a break from studying.”

With her competitive drive motivating her to Nationals, Mayerhofer is also contemplating her future in professional skiing once she’s done with the Utes, including returning to Austria to prep for the 2018 Olympic Games in Beijing.

But with internal issues in the Austrian Ski team, those plans might be put on hold in order for Mayerhofer to enjoy her life in other aspects besides skiing.

“I have to decide what I want to do for the future,” Mayerhofer said. “It’s not going to be an easy decision. I would love to go and ski, but I also don’t really want to go back with the Austrian Ski team. I wasn’t really happy with them and agree with the things that they are doing.”

Next week is all that matters to Mayerhofer right now. She will be looking forward to giving her all to help the Utes become the best ski team in the nation.

c.marquez@dailyutahchronicle.com

@chad_marquez

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