Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two top 30 results in France

The past week in France has been an absolute nail biter. The past two world cups were the final qualifying races for the Olympic Games.

The first of the two races was held in Les Contamines, France. This is where I competed in my first ever Ski Cross World Cup 2 years ago. It was great to come back and re live some old memories. Helping us out for the week was French physio Jean-Noel. It was great to get have some massage treatment after weeks of hard training and competition.

Starting with bib number 40, I managed to qualify in 27th spot; my 3rd consecutive finals qualification for the season. The course was lots of fun. Some steep sections with water injected GS turns, and also some big jumps with lots of air time.

(Training in Les Contamines. Photo courtesy of Jean-Noel)

(Les Contamines SX track - view from the bottom)

On Saturday, the weather came in and finals were cancelled after 2 heats of girls. I was ready to go in the gate, waiting for the familiar “Riders ready, Attention….”. With my heart rate through the roof and adrenaline pumping wildly, they made the call. You could hardly see 20m in front of you. Not ideal weather conditions when you’re launching 20+ metres through the air with 3 other skiers by your side.

So finals were postponed until the next day. The sky cleared and it was a cracker of a day. Once again I had fourth pick (which means no pick) of the gate because of my qualifying time. Coming into the first turn I was pinched out by Emilie of Switzerland. I stuck right on the tails of her skis until she went off a jump unbalanced and crashed into the nets. I managed to swerve and dodge her, and continued on to finish 3rd in my heat. Emilie was taken away in a helicopter and I later found out that she blew her ACL; the same injury I sustained just under 2 years ago. Other injuries that day included a torn MCL and 2 concussions. Injuries seem to be a little worse this year because everyone is really pushing it in order to make Olympic qualification. The level of intensity and competition has really taken a big step up; which definitely makes things more interesting! I finished the race in 29th, so another top 30 result to add to the list this season.

After the race we drove to Alpes D’Huez, about a 3 hour drive. We drove up the famous road of the Tour de France stage. The Alpes D’Huez course was long and had lots of jumps. I qualified in 23rd spot, which I was very happy with. Every race keeps getting better and better, which is a good sign.

(The top of Alpe D'Huez - the famous 'Tour de France' hill climb on the right)

(Start gate at Alpes D'Huez)

(Training in Alpes D'Huez. Courtesy of Jean-Noel)

(High up in the sky in Alpes D'Huez. Courtesy of Jean-Noel)

(Training head-to-head with Noriko Fukushima of Japan. Courtesy of Jean-Noel)

Unfortunately finals were cancelled the following day due to en extreme snow blizzard that came in the night before. It snowed over 50cm over night and during the day! So I ended up finishing in 23rd spot; a great result!

At the moment, in terms of Olympic qualification, I sit in 37th spot in an Olympic adjusted field (only 4 per nation). However I am likely to jump up a few spots because of injuries; and some teams may not take a full quota of 4. All I need to do now is get my 100 FIS points to secure my place. Fingers and toes crossed! I have two more World Cups, one in Blue Mountain in Canada, and the other in Lake Placid in USA. I am skiing really well at the moment, and I know I can get the results I need to qualify.

Tomorrow we fly to Toronto, Canada and then head to Blue Mountain (after a quick visit to Niagra Falls!)

Will keep you posted with how everything goes in North America. The next week will be the hardest, toughest, nerve-racking, most mentally challenging week of my life. I've worked so hard for this over the past 2 years. I have put absolutely everything I have in it...blood, sweat and tears; quite literally! Let's hope I can pull it all together and make my dreams become a reality!