Training on the first day went off to an interesting start. The course is unlike any other SX course I’ve skied. The snow has been machine injected (injected with water so that it freezes basically into pure blue ice), so inspecting the course was challenging enough! It was almost impossible to hold an edge (the coaches with un-tuned skis had no hope in getting down), and by the time we got to the bottom, my freshly tuned skis were blunt.
(Final jump into the finish area)
Training went reasonably well despite the two large course holds following crashes. Luckily they had a well set-up medical team / emergency service because two helicopters were used that day to cart off racers to hospital. I finally got over my nerves with some pump up music and self-talk (it’s required in this sport to convince yourself that everything will be fine, and that the course is not THAT bad, despite the fact that two people are already lying in hospital after the first 15 minutes of training). My training runs weren’t amazing, but I did make it down the course in one piece! I think that in itself was an effort to be congratulated.
Qualifications the next day were held late in the afternoon. The stadium lights went on, and the course looked spectacular. I started with bib 44 out of 53 girls, and came down in 28th position. I was very happy with my performance, after having beaten half the field. It was extremely tough competition. Everyone has really stepped it up this year. The Swedish girl who won the previous 2 World Cups in Italy last week didn't even qualify for finals, finishing in 33rd. A number of other girls who have finished top 10 also didn’t qualify. Just goes to show how tough the competition is this year in the lead up to the Games. My result meant that I had safely made it into finals for the following night, so I couldn’t help but smile!
(Qualifications - Courtesy of Grega Stupor)
Last night was finals. With over 5,000 spectators and fans lining the course and surrounding the finish area, the atmosphere was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. It was how every World Cup should be! It was crazy and exciting to think that ALL these people had come out to watch myself and the other 63 competitors in the race finals. Before the race started, groups of Austrian school kids were excited to get athlete autographs; in particular from the ‘novelty’ teams such as Japan and Australia (yes, I still do get the question ‘Is there snow in Australia?’). A number of Aussie / New Zealand ski team athletes also came to support which was fantastic. It’s definitely nice to know that you’ve got someone cheering for you in a crowd of 5,000 Europeans.
(The finish area)
Right before finals during training, another athlete was choppered away. Yet this time it wasn’t just ‘another’ racer. It was Scott Kneller, my teammate. This definitely freaked me out. In his last training run he had a big crash off one of the jumps and knocked himself out for a couple of minutes. He was taken straight to hospital in Innsbruck. The thing with this sport is this kind of stuff happens all the time, and you have to have the mental strength to overcome it. There is no point in dwelling over every injury. You have to accept it, move on, and focus on the race ahead. Because if you don’t pull out of that start gate with 100% commitment, you’ve got no chance.
(Head-to-head training with Jenny before finals. Courtesy of Grega Stupor)
(Excited with bib 28. Ready for finals)
In my heat was Meryl Boulangeat (France), Fanny Smith (Switzerland) and Heidi Zacher (Germany). One lone Aussie amongst a group of Euro’s! I was in a tough heat. All these girls have had multiple top 10 WC finishes. My start wasn’t great as I was in the far right gate and had the furthest distance to travel to the first turn. Coming into the second turn however, I managed to take a higher line and make a pass on third. I passed her on the inside and she ended up clipping the gate and crashing. I came close to getting caught up, but made it out unscathed. I was right behind second the whole way down, and came very close towards the end however didn’t manage to make a pass. I’m definitely disappointed that I didn’t get through to the next round, however there were some improvements and positives I took away from the race. Must stay positive! Next time!
(Myself, JJ, Brian and Bud after the race)
It’s 7am and I’m now on the road to our next destination: Les Contamines, France, an 8 hour drive through Austria, Switzerland and through to France. Training starts tomorrow for the next World Cup on the 9th.
Given that my results are improving every race, hopefully the trend continues and I have a great two races in France. Will keep you updated!