First Person: West Fairlee’s Geraghty-Moats Aiming for the Olympics

  • 2017 U.S. Ski Jumping Championships at the UOP HS 134 meter jump Photo: U.S. Ski & Snowboard

  • West Fairlee’s Tara Geraghty-Moats competes in an undated photograph. Geraghty-Moats, 24, hopes to make the U.S. women’s ski jumping team for February’s Olympics in South Korea.

  • Tara Geraghty-Moats

  • West Fairlee’s Tara Geraghty-Moats hopes to take her ski-jumping skills to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.

Valley News Sports Editor
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lebanon — Tara Geraghty-Moats feels the door is open for her to make her first U.S. Olympic appearance in the coming winter. It’s just a matter of flying through it.

The 24-year-old West Fairlee resident wasn’t fully committed to ski jumping when the first women’s Olympic tournament took place in Russia in 2014. Flying through the sky had its appeal, but so did biathlon, the combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting.

The pull of the jump drew Geraghty-Moats back over time. As her FIS World Cup season beckons, Geraghty-Moats has targeted a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. Performance on the World Cup tour will be the deciding factor.

The seventh season of FIS-sponsored women’s ski jumping begins next week in Norway. Geraghty-Moats and her fellow athletes will compete at seven sites in six nations through the winter to secure spots for the Feb. 12 Olympic meet.

“I feel great,” Geraghty-Moats said. “I had really good results this summer, and I’m really confident. I feel like I’ve made some progression in my technique.

“I guess I’m very, very consistently top-30, which I’m happy about because consistency is something personally, as a junior athlete, I had more of a challenge with. Now I’m consistently top-30, and my good results are top-15 or top-10.”

Geraghty-Moats sat down earlier this fall at the Carter Community Building Association’s Witherell Recreation Center, where she does some of her offseason work, and talked about the Olympics, the threat of injury, being the sole New Englander on the national team and the benefits that summertime work on a local farm provides. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

Valley News: Let’s start by doing a catch-up on what’s been happening with you since last season.

Tara Geraghty-Moats: Last winter I was on the World Cup tour, and I did have a little bit of an Achilles’ (tendon) injury, but I was still making the top 30, which is where you get points that go toward Olympic qualifying. I finished the season in Olympic qualifying position, which is something I’m going to need to hold and keep competing in the World Cup competitions through this winter.

VN: How will Olympic qualifying come about this year?

TGM: It’s pretty complicated with ski jumping. If the U.S. women have four athletes that are in the top 30 in the world, they then have four slots they can send athletes to. If they only have three in the top 30, then they can only send three athletes (to Pyeongchang). Right now we have four slots, but we all have to maintain our ranking in the top 30 in the world if we want to have four team members go.

VN: You didn’t qualify for Sochi in 2014 in part because you were still competing in biathlon. What made you want to concentrate solely on ski jumping?

TGM: I missed it, and I was at the end of my biathlon career as a junior. (Geraghty-Moats went to junior worlds four times and won a national title in the sport five years ago while she was studying at a winter sports school in Sweden.) I would have had to compete as a senior, and I really missed ski jumping. I was happy to be back.

VN: What is it about ski jumping that appeals to you in a way biathlon doesn’t?

TGM: Comparing the two is kind of unfair; it’s like comparing a truck versus a car. They’re completely different animals. I love being in the air. I’ve always loved the feeling of flying. I miss biathlon a little bit, too; I love the focus shooting requires. I love pushing my limits on the cross country course. Each sport has a unique side of it for me. When I’m training for ski jumping, I don’t do any biathlon or cross country ski. However, Nordic combined (Nordic skiing and ski jumping) will be a women’s international sport for the first time this year, so I will be competing in women’s Nordic combined at the Continental Cup, which is the level below World Cup. Obviously, the priority is making the Olympic team, but I hope to be sort of a pioneer and role model for the next generation of Nordic combined girls.

VN: Since you can stay back in West Fairlee and come down here to train, you’re away from your U.S. teammates. How do you make that work?

TGM: There are two girls on the national team from Park City (Utah), one from the Midwest and one from Lake Placid. I do a lot of my training by myself when I’m home, the majority of it. When we’re at training camps in Europe, Park City or Lake Placid, then we train together.

VN: Do you prefer one over the other?

TGM: Not really. I definitely need my alone time, my calm and quiet time, but it also is great to train with my teammates, support each other and push each other. You need both to be well-balanced.

VN: You did break your forearm earlier this summer during on-the-hill training in Slovenia. Does the risk of injury ever concern you?

TGM: Honestly, I’ve gotten injured less than most people I know. I’ve only ever broken two bones. Ski jumping is an incredibly safe sport. It doesn’t look safe, it looks pretty extreme, but in terms of skiing injury, ski jumping is one of the lowest (potential for injury) sports you can do.

VN: We in the media tend to play up the Olympics. How about from the athlete’s standpoint? What does the possibility of competing in the Olympics, as opposed to World Cup or anything else, mean to you?

TGM: The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport and sort of what people recognize as the biggest accomplishment. I’m not going to do anything different in my physical training, push harder or try to be better. I’m training as hard as I can for the World Cup anyway. I’m just going to try to treat it as a normal year. Obviously, going to the Olympics is every sportsman’s ultimate dream, but at the same time, you just have to do what you do and stay calm. Otherwise, you’re not going to get there.

VN: Have the Olympics always been a focal point for you, even when you were doing biathlon?

TGM: As a junior, everyone asks, “Are you going to go to the Olympics?” And my answer has previously been there’s a lot of steps in between where I was and the Olympics. Now there are not so many steps left, so I can actually focus on the Olympics. … It’s like asking a kindergartner where they’re going to go to grad school. The kindergartner might say they want to, but they don’t know how. Now that I’ve basically graduated college, it’s the logical next step. Whether I go this year or in four years, it’s one of my current goals now.

VN: You work at Crossroad Farm in Post Mills in the spring. What do you do?

TGM: Everything. Mostly field hand, but whatever needs to be done around the farm — anything from planting tomatoes, picking tomatoes, putting in new crops in the field, working the farmstand. It’s a big farm, it supplies a lot of restaurants around the Upper Valley and there’s a lot of unique jobs to do at the farm every day. What I like about working at the farm is every single day, you are doing something different.

VN: Is there anything about working at the farm that benefits you and your training?

TGM: Yes and no. It makes you really strong, and it gives a lot of endurance, but at the same time it reduces my explosive power, because I’m on my feet all day working. Your body switches into what I like to call diesel-engine mode: Very strong, very slow, can go all day, but it doesn’t have that quick snappiness you need as a ski jumper. That’s why I tend to stop at the end of June and give myself a month to get up to speed again.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.