Current Issue

A team spirit

Sophomore skier Florence Roujas competed on the French national team but says competing for DU is more fun. Photo by: Bill Salaz

There is no “I” in Florence Roujas.

In her first season as a Pioneer, the slalom and giant slalom standout won six races and was named DU Female Athlete of the Year. She earned All-America status after the 2005 NCAA championships in Vermont, where she helped DU to its 18th title — its fourth in the last six seasons.

But for Roujas, her team comes first.

“We have a really great team again this year, and I think we have a chance to win again,” she says. “I just hope I can help us do that by having a good year — maybe the same kind of season I had last year.”

Coach Kurt Smitz says humility and team spirit is typical of Roujas, a sophomore. At the national championships last season, Smitz recalls, Roujas was in a good position to win the individual slalom title. But, she knew that if she went all out and crashed, her low points could cost the Pioneers the NCAA team title. So, Smitz says, she held back a little on her run, took third and the Pioneers went on to win it all.

“The team meant something to her,” Smitz says. “She could have gone for it and been an individual national champion, but she wanted to make sure she did her part for the team. This is the kind of person that she is.

“People who are really good at a particular sport often carry around a healthy ego. And ego can be a good thing because, obviously, you have to have  confidence,” he adds. “But there is a difference between carrying an ego and putting it out there in everyone’s face. Florence shares her confidence. She encourages people and makes them want to be better.”

So far this season, 23-year-old Roujas has finished near the top of the field in both the slalom and giant slalom, helping the Pioneers to win their first two meets.

Before coming to Denver in 2004 from her hometown of Embrun, France, Roujas competed as a member of the French national ski team. The competition and constant training was exhausting and dispiriting, Roujas says.

“I just got really tired of it. I was fed up with the system,” she says. “I was skiing all the time and never had time for anything else. I couldn’t get an education. I couldn’t do anything. It was all skiing.”

After receiving a call from Smitz, it was just a matter of packing her bags. DU welcomed the bright-eyed journalism major with open arms. And Roujas, who loves to travel and saw the new  opportunity as a challenge, began competing with new resolve.

American collegiate skiing is team focused, which makes it fun, Roujas says. And believe it or not, she notes, Colorado snow is much better than what the Alps offer.

“Here I can do the kind of skiing I want,” she says. “It’s more relaxed. I’m not concentrating so hard. Technique is really important, but thinking too much about it, like I was in France, doesn’t work.”

Still, Roujas laments that even as defending national champions, the achievements of DU skiers often go unnoticed on a campus where hockey is king of the hill.

“Some people I talk to don’t even know we have a ski team,” Roujas says. “We feel pretty sad about that. We are working hard at skiing. It would be nice to have a little more recognition.”

Comments are closed.