EDITOR’S NOTE: Tahoe Daily Tribune is counting down to the Sochi Winter Olympics with a series of Q-and-As with local and regional Olympic hopefuls. First up is moguls skier Sho Kashima. See upcoming sports sections for other profiles.
This is the season that Sho Kashima was waiting for.
The Heavenly and U.S. Ski Team moguls skier is entering the season injury-free for the first time since 2009. The repaired ligaments in both knees feel strong, and Kashima says training is going well — a surprising sentiment since the 26-year-old is always his own toughest critic.
Kashima finished last season ranked No. 17 in the world, but that was after he sat the first half of the season out rehabbing his second knee injury. He charged back into national ranking in the final two months and wrapped up the season by scorching his hometown resort with a second- and third-place performance at the U.S. Freestyle Championships.
The likely 2014 Olympian looks like he’s set to have his best season yet, but his Olympics path was not easy and it was paved with potholes.
Kashima was all set for a trip to the 2010 Winter Olympics when he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus about three months before the Games. Olympic dreams were put on hold as Kashima underwent surgery and started the rehab process.
The following year, 2011-12, Kashima was back on the slopes. He looked stronger than ever, with three World Cup podium finishes, until he was dealt another season-ending blow. Halfway through the season, Kashima tore the ACL and meniscus in his other knee and fractured a femur.
It was a devastating setback. Kashima had just spent the better part of a year rehabbing the same injury in his quest to climb back to the Olympic level. Now he was back to square one.
Kashima fixed his attention on 2014 and started the slow rehab process all over again.
Now, four years and two knee surgeries later, Kashima is skiing like an Olympian once again, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down until he comes home with some matching hardware.
Tahoe Daily Tribune caught up with Kashima at a U.S. Ski Team training camp in Chile in August for an email Q-and-A. He shared his thoughts and goals for the upcoming season.
Q: When we left off last season you had just picked up some sweet hardware, at the US Freestyle Championships on your home turf. What have you been up to since?
A: Since April, I’ve moved back to Park City so I can water ramp 3-4 times per week and get in the gym six times per week. I coached for five weeks this summer between Mt. Hood and Whistler to make some money, now the focus is on my on-snow training and competition.
Q: What was the best part of your summer “vacation?”
A: Being healthy. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to participate in all of the offseason ski training.
Q: This will be the first season in some time that you’re not coming off a knee surgery. How are you feeling heading into the season? How do you feel you were skiing during summer training?
A: My body is finally feeling great and my skills have improved since I was last healthy. Can’t wait until winter.
Q: It’s all pretty good timing considering this is an Olympic year. How do you feel about your chance of making the team? What will it take?
A: I’ve showed that I’m capable of being one of the guns on World Cup in the past. I was ranked third in the World before my latest knee injury. I’m looking to improve from that spot.
Q: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
A: To finish the season ranked No. 1 in the world and bring back an Olympic medal when I come home for US Nationals at Heavenly in March.
Q: You’re entering this season with some serious experience and competition knowledge under your belt. How has all that experience changed your mind set before this season?
A: All of these setbacks have changed my attitude in a good way. I’ve learned to swallow my pride and not be afraid to look stupid while working on my weaknesses. It’s all helped me become more balanced, resulting in more success.
Q: What competition are you most looking forward to this year?
A: All of them between December and April. It’s been a few years since I’ve skied a full year of competition.