After a less than stellar Olympic season, USA’s Ben Berend is done with Nordic Combined… for now. After taking some time to contemplate his future in spring, Berend decided to put his Nordic Combined career on hold and ski next season in the NCAA from Albuquerque, New Mexico, as is reported by Steamboat Today.
The 22-year-old just barely made the Olympics the last season due to the USA receiving an unused quota spot last minute but his best season result was a 23rd place in Hakuba, Japan. Fans following the sport saw the the usually happy, positive, bubbly and upbeat Berend losing his magic touch on the jumping hill and being reduced to a shadow of his former self.
“The sacrifices seemed so easy once upon a time”, Berend writes on his blog. “Now I’m just not so sure. The truth is, I have lost that scrappiness when it comes to sport. Individual sports are tricky. They require so much self-focus. I’m a little worn out from focusing on myself. I would like to focus on others a lot more. I’ve changed and whether that is temporary or permanent- I have no idea. I think to keep doing this half-heartedly would be a travesty to all the years I gave this my all. I owe it to myself not to ignore this feeling and take a little time.”
So after consulting with his girlfriend Brenna Egan, who is a cross-country skier at the University of New Mexico Ski Team herself, and his parents, Berend made the decision to return to the classroom and hang up the jumping skis for the skinny skis for now. Even though being a stronger jumper than skier, the opportunity to stay on skis presented itself in cross-country:
"I have no idea how fast I’ll be, and that's the fun part," he said. "I have some time to train and get fast enough. I think if I was to race right now — especially in Classic skiing because I've only done that about five times in my life — it wouldn’t go well, but it's fun having a different challenge, and I'm excited to see how it works out. Will I be fast? My answer is, 'I hope so’”, Berend is quoted in Steamboat Today.
At the same time, he will try to turn his love for writing into pursuing a degree in journalism. Berend will still keep the option open to return to Nordic Combined next spring.
“There is one last thing I want to say. I know some may not be pleased with this decision of mine or maybe it won’t make sense. This is the hardest part for me. The only pain I feel about this decision is when I think about my teammates, coaches, staff, and sponsors.”