Stefanie Fleckenstein got her first taste of international competition this season, and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer has her fingers crossed she'll get plenty more in 2016-17.
Though the Junior World Ski Championships in Russia were frustrating, as Fleckenstein finished just one race, the jet-set experience left her craving more. Before Junior Worlds, Fleckenstein had the chance to work with Canada's top skiers in Europe, and as a newly minted member of Alpine Canada Alpin's development team, she hopes to continue the trajectory she started this spring.
"Next year, we're hopefully going to work more with the World Cup girls," she said. "They're going to try to take us to Europe and expose us to more of the international field over there as well as competing in the NorAm races in Canada and the U.S. They're trying to get us used to spending most of our winter abroad in new places.
"Hopefully I'll get to enter some Europa Cups and maybe even some World Cups, so we'll see how it goes, but it's looking good so far."
Though working with the national team athletes was, in some ways, a culture shock for Fleckenstein, she appreciated the chance to watch and see how the best carry themselves.
"I'm used to being the older girl on the team and the more experienced one," she said. "I got there and I was all of a sudden the youngest and I knew nothing compared to the older girls. It was really cool getting to learn from them and I had to push myself to that different level."
Fleckenstein had a strong season overall, but dominated here in Whistler toward the end of the season, taking a second in the downhill at the national championships before pulling off a six-race gold-medal sweep at spring series.
"I was really hopeful that I would end up on the team, but there's always that uncertainty. Finally getting actually invited to the team was exciting. It was great," she said.
Over the course of the season, the 18-year-old saw a major change in her mindset, as she shifted her focus from the long view to the short one. With more stress on the way, she expects that switch to come in handy in the seasons to come.
"It's looking at each race individually without thinking about what the result would mean at the end of it, trying to focus on each day as an individual day and then seeing where it takes me from there. I think that's really important for next year because there are lots of races that I'll have a lot more pressure on me, that could qualify me for bigger races and I just need to approach them the same way I would a normal race day," she said.
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