Olympian Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) is on a mission to be known as the fastest cross country sprint skier in the world. In his pursuit, his life reflects that of an athlete completely dedicated to all things cross country. But, as he'll say often, a life spent devoted to cross country skiing isn't what some people think it is - it's fun.
You have a really busy schedule with training, are you also going to school right now?
I did take a few classes over the Internet with the University of Utah, which helped. I picked away at it for two years and then I decided there wasn't enough time in the day to train twice a day and focus on my studies so right now my studies are on hold, but that doesn't mean I won't go back to school when I'm done skiing.
What's your major?
Right now my major is about 20 credits into my college career. Actually, my major right now is skiing.
Really, well, in that case, talk to us about your love for sprint skiing.
Sprint racing has been on the international circuit for eight or nine years now and 2002 was the first Olympic Games with sprint racing in it. What it did was it brought really fast head to head cross country skiing to the people. It's almost like ski cross but on cross country skis.
What's your favorite place to compete?
I love being in Park City in the summer, but I also love being in places that are really dark and nasty in the winter like Finland and northern Scandinavia.
How do you get ready for and recover after a competition?
Throughout the day of a sprint race, which is only a mile long, I'll ski up to two and a half hours of skiing. The shorter the race, the longer it takes to warm up from it and the longer it takes to warm down.
It seems like that's a pretty taxing day. Do you have to eat a lot?
The big thing is carbohydrates for anyone who's putting a lot of hours - like cross country skiers do. We have weeks where we'll train up to 25 hours in a week. We also only get maybe two weeks a year off because we can't lose all that anaerobic work that we've worked on over the years. So we have to eat a lot of calories, basically as much as you can. I have to force feed myself a lot during the season to try and get enough carbohydrates down.
Where do you like to go on vacation?
In the spring I love going anywhere that there's a beach and good waves. I love surfing. I grew up surging on the New Jersey and New Hampshire coasts, so in the spring I like to get away. I have my two weeks off then get right back into training.
Well, there's obviously a lot of training involved in what you do. What's one of the tests you take when you're training?
We do what we call the treadmill max test. You get on a giant treadmill and you ski with roller skis. They hook you up to computers and it measures how fast you turn oxygen into carbon dioxide - which is one of the gauges to determine how fit we are.
So, we're in a harness and they increase the speed and the incline over a certain amount of time and you go as far as you can until you cant go anymore and the harness catches you.
How do you motivate yourself to do something like that?
You definitely have to put yourself in a mental state for it. I get nervous. It's a different kind of nervous that I feel before a competition - a kind of nervous that you know that you're about to punish your body and it's going to hurt really bad. You have to get in the zone and blast some music and get fired up because it's going to be 10 minutes of some pretty painful stuff.
Well outside of everything you do to train, we heard you have a career in filmmaking as well?
When I was a senior in high school I started x Ski Films, which is my buddies from around Vermont and myself. We were tired of the image that cross country skiing had, and that was that it was a granola old school sport - that it was something you did in your grandparents backyard. But, in traveling around the world to ski and seeing how exciting the sport was, we were like, "Why can't Americans realize how fun this sport is?" So we decided to take it upon ourselves to make some ski movies that would showcase cross country racing and also show that to be a cross country skier you dont have to be a hermit. You don't have to sit at home with your heart monitor strap on, eating power bars - you can go out and have fun.