Retirement Life Can Wait For Jake Adicoff, Who’s Preparing For Another Paralympic Trip
by Alex Abrams
Jake Adicoff competes with guide Sam Wood at the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships. (Photo: Ralf Kuckuck)
When Jake Adicoff finished competing at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, he thought that would be his last Paralympic run as a Nordic skier.
He had already stepped away from the sport once before — after earning a silver medal at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. But he had a change of heart, deciding to return to training for Beijing.
Choosing a retirement date can be an emotional time, especially for a Paralympian. After initially calling it a career following Beijing, Adicoff found there was one problem: he realized last year that he loved skiing too much to retire and that being a visually impaired skier “is such a cool lifestyle” that he didn’t want to give it up just yet.
The four-time Paralympic medalist is now motivated to compete three years from now at the Milano Cortina Winter Games.
“Most of that (2021-22) ski season I thought I was going to be done after Beijing, and I kind of decided pretty late to continue skiing,” said Adicoff, who turns 28 in May. “And so I really wanted to focus (this past season) on continuing to improve, continuing to get faster.
“But most importantly for me, it was all about looking toward this next four-year cycle, going to Milan and thinking about what this year is about for me. And for me, I just needed to stay engaged in skiing and have fun with it.”
Adicoff, a native of Sun Valley, Idaho, earned two individual silver medals and a gold as a member of the U.S. mixed cross-country relay team in Beijing. He built off that strong showing this past season while continuing to race with his friend and guide, Sam Wood.
“Having kind of gone through that entire (Beijing) Games experience and the leadup to that, we obviously have a ton of experience from all of that racing and traveling together,” Wood said. “So it definitely felt like we fell back into an old routine pretty quickly once we hit the road this season.”
In January, Adicoff and Wood teamed up to medal in all four events they competed in at the world championships in Östersund, Sweden. They earned two golds — in the cross-country sprint and the mixed relay — to go along with two silvers.
Adicoff and Wood avoided disaster to win the sprint. After catching up to the front of the pack, Adicoff decided to take a chance and go wide on the course, narrowly avoiding a crash.
“Things got a little spicy towards the end,” Adicoff said. “We came into the finish with three guide-athlete pairs. It’s six people in a really tight group, and I was just looking for a way to get around them.
“So I went wide in the finish lanes and ended up just getting extremely lucky. There was a crash on the inside two lanes and just picking that outside lane was the ticket to the gold medal there.”
Adicoff and Wood capped this past season by winning the long-distance race and earning two silvers at the world cup finale at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, in early March.
Since this was the first season following Beijing, Adicoff said he decided to try new things to challenge himself and have fun while skiing.
He traveled around the globe, competing in able-bodied races in Europe and hopping from one continent to the next to find new places to train.
Adicoff flew to Australia so he could get on snow earlier than if he had stayed in Idaho. He also skied in Italy, Switzerland, France, Norway, Sweden and Canada.
It’s considered one of the most famous and challenging cross-country skiing races in the world. Skiers make their way over two mountains and cover 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) while carrying a backpack weighing at least 7.7 pounds.
Adicoff, skiing without a guide, finished the Birkebeinerrennet in 3 hours, 8.22 minutes.
“It was very cool. You hear about the Birkebeinerrennet from such a young age, from when you grow up in skiing,” Adicoff said. “To go over there and ski that, to race probably the most iconic ski race in the world was pretty incredible.
“It’s just very cool to see so many people so excited about cross-country skiing over there and fun to do this race that’s been in the back of my mind for years now. It was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done.”
Adicoff has already started training for next season. He plans to take part in a training camp in Bend, Oregon, in May and then spend a couple of months this summer training in Oslo, Norway.
Adicoff remains motivated by the fact that he won only one gold medal at the world championships in Lillehammer, Norway, in January 2022, not the four he was hoping to get. Despite it being over a year ago, the results have stuck in Adicoff’s mind.
“My goal going into the season was to win all four races there, and so honestly, I kind of missed on that. But it gave me the fire,” Adicoff said. “In the spring season, it’s generally pretty chill, but I’m training a lot and I have energy because I didn’t hit these goals and I want to next year.”