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.
Kashima is right where he wants to be heading into an Olympic year, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down until he comes home with some hardware.
The Tribune caught up with Kashima at a U.S. Ski Team training camp in Chile this past Friday for an email Q-and-A. He shared his thought and goals for the upcoming season.
Q: When we left off 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: I briefly stalked your twitter account, and it looks like you are in Chile. Where are you exactly and what’s going on there?
A: I’m in El Colorado, Chile, for a camp with the US Ski Team. We are here chasing snow for the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, and the conditions are great. I’ll be here until the end of August!
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 you 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.