Monday, January 25, 2010

10th in final World Cup before the Games

Here in Lake Placid, I had the race of my life and finished 10th in the final World Cup before the Olympic Games. Leaving it down to the very last possible race, I now have the 100 FIS points to meet Olympic Games criteria. Now it’s just a waiting game to see whether nations take full quotas. The team will be announced tomorrow!

Talk about leaving my qualification to the last minute! The past few weeks, months even, have been extremely stressful and nerve-wracking. As you can imagine, qualifying for the Games has basically been the only thing on my mind since I became an ‘Olympic Hopeful.’ So now whether I go or not is completely out of my hands, and I know that I have done absolutely everything in my power to get myself there.

So, the race! The course here in Lake Placid, US, is unlike any other I’ve skied. This season, it seems as though we’ve been going from one extreme course to another. Where St. Johann is now known as the ‘ice skating rink’, this course will be forever remembered as the ‘roller course’. Out of 33 features, 30 of them were rollers. It was probably the most aggressive course on the body, and resulting were a few bad injuries. A couple of girls, including Meryl Boulanger of France and Andrea Limbacher of Austria, tore major ligaments in their knees (ACL, MCL) which is really unfortunate right before the Games. One of the French men also had a severe back injury in finals and had to be hospitalised immediately because he couldn’t feel his legs. A bit scary! I wish everyone all the best, and hope for a speedy recovery!

(Just a small portion of the 30 rollers in the Lake Placid course)

In qualifications, the pressure I was under was intense. After finishing 25th in Blue Mountain, Canada, last week, this was my very last chance to qualify for the Games. Years of hard work have gone into this, and to see it slip away so easily would have been a huge disappointment. Once I got into the start gate however, I felt relaxed, confident and ready to take some risks. I managed to put everything aside… the Olympics, qualifications, the points etc… and just bring it back to basics: Focus on skiing well and enjoying it! Because after all, that’s why I do this sport, because I love the adrenaline, the risks and the huge rewards when they pay off! I had a great run and qualified in 11th. I now had a little bit of breathing room, but it was not over yet!

(Stoked after coming down in 11th with bib 29 in Lake Placid World Cup)

Yesterday was finals. To secure my top 20 finish (which I needed for the FIS points), I basically had to get through the first heat and into quarter finals. In my heat was Ophelie David of France (World Cup champion and SX legend), Noriko Fukushima of Japan (coincidentally my training buddy on the World Cup) and Emily Sarsfield of Great Britain. I managed to have an incredible start, and within a matter of seconds I was out in front. This took me by a huge surprise, given Ophelie’s reputation for having easily the best start on the circuit, hence all the World Cup titles. For over half the course, I lead the pack of 4 down the crazy, bumpy, wild course. I think I was so surprised about being out in front that I forgot how to ski! About half way down, Ophelie managed to draft behind me and make a pass. I stuck on her tail all the way to the finish line and finished 2nd. Through to the next heat! I can’t even explain the feeling. Adrenaline, relief, excitement, nerves, joy…

In the quarter finals with Ophelie David, Karen Huttary (Austria) and Roccio (Spain), I played it safe and finished in 3rd, therefore not making it through to semis. It wasn’t worth the risk of being injured of disqualified, especially when my job for the day was essentially done: finish top 16 and get the points I need. Anything else would be a bonus. Because of my fast qualifying time, I ended up in 10th, my best ever world cup result (and my first ever prize money on world cup!)

I am very pumped about this past race. Whether I make the Olympics or not (will know tomorrow!), I have a fantastic result under my belt and something to be very proud of. I am in peak form at the moment and skiing at my best, so if I am given the opportunity to race in the Olympics, I know I will go into that race with a lot of confidence and a newfound hunger to do well.

Will update you once the team is announced tomorrow!