Saturday, January 28, 2012

The X Games adventure continues...

The past three days have been a blast! (Do people still use that word...?)

After my first training day on the X Games ski cross track, all I wanted to do was ski it again and again! The feeling is kind of like riding on a rollercoaster that you're terrified of, but as soon as it's over you want to do it again straight away! Only one small problem, my legs couldn't really permit that! After three full length runs of training on day two, my legs were done for the day and ready for a spin and ice bath. Skiing such a demanding course at 3,000m, muscular fatigue really gets to you, so recovery is extremely important.

This video is from Day 2 of training at X Games. Marielle Thompson of Canada and I take on the course with a little more confidence! Check out Mar's recovery off the last jump. Close one!

Yesterday was qualifications. The fresh 4 inches of snow from the night before as well as a drop in air temperature meant that the course was running much slower than on the training days. I would say a good 10-15 seconds slower over the entire course, which is a major difference in speed. Features that we were easily doubling yesterday were now a 'press-press' because we didn't have enough speed to clear the landing. The gap jump and butter box were a worry, because if you didn't clear the distance, the consequences would have been huge. On my first run I popped as hard as I could off the gap jump, and just cleared it. Close call!

For the qualification run, the track was running a little faster, but still nothing like yesterday. I skied a clean run, no major mistakes, but feel I probably could have pushed it a little harder and taken a few more risks. I finished in 9th spot, so I'm through to the finals for Sunday. It will be interesting skiing the course with another 5 girls besides me. On World Cup we only ski 4 at a time, so 6 might feel crowded but it will definitely make it interesting!

(Numbered up for qualifications)

Men's and Women's ski cross finals will be shown 2pm (US Mountain Time) on ESPN. However, you can stream it live at 12pm on...

Good luck to Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin, who is competing in the Men's border cross finals today at 2pm. I'll be watching!

(Rivals in the start gate, but always friends off the hill!)

(The Norwegians always know how to have fun)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 1 at Winter X Games, Aspen

So I have survived my first day on the Winter X Games ski cross track!

Yesterday would have to be up there as one of the best days skiing of my life. Big call, I know! It wasn’t because of freshly groomed crisp corduroy runs on a bluebird day, or waist deep powder (which usually takes the cake!) It was simply because I skied the most well built, fast, scary, adrenaline pumping and rewarding ski cross track of my life. Plus I got to ski it with the best ski cross athletes in the world.

When I headed up for our first inspection at 11:30am, I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous! The kind of nerves that make your stomach churn and butterflies fly. After a good look at the course, I decided the best thing to do was to section the course, and gradually build it up until I skied it full length. Unlike most world cup courses which last from 50 seconds to 1 minute 10, this course is about 1 min 40 seconds. A real leg and lung burner! Plus we’re up at 3,000m, so that adds to the fatigue. By the end of the day I was happy with my training runs, and looking forward to skiing it again the next day!

(Karolina of Poland and I excited to ski the course)

(The Swiss girls, Sanna and Katrin, and I)

The atmosphere here in Aspen is incredible. There’s such a positive buzz in the air. Everyone’s excited to be here, and looking forward to having fun competing on the course.

I am extremely happy that I ballsed up and made the decision to come and compete at X Games. The easier and safer option would have been to stay with the Australian team and train in Europe, but I figured that this is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often, and it has been a goal of mine since I made the switch to ski cross in 2009. So I am here totally solo. I jumped on a plane, rented a car, booked accommodation and I am a party of one! Great thing is I know every ski cross athlete here, plus a few other Aussies in different events, so I don’t feel alone at all.

Here is a sneaky peak into the 2012 Winter X Games ski cross course. The sun was out for our first day of training, and snow conditions couldn't have been any better! In this head cam video, you will see Marielle Thompson of Canada and myself take on the track, enjoying every second of it!

Qualifications are on Friday to determine the ranking of the top 12 girls. We are then split into two heats of six, where we will fight it out for the X Games title at 12pm on Sunday (US Mountain Time). Catch all the action on ESPN, either on TV or live on the internet.

Now for a few pictures of the course....

(The 12ft ledge drop start)

(A bordercross rider takes on the gap jump)

(A view of the gap jump in inspection)

(The butter box)

(You wouldn't want to be going to slow over this thing!)

(The intimidating in-run into the final jump)

(If I'm 174cm tall, how big is this thing?!?)

PS- A big thank you to Kyle and the team at Surefoot, Aspen for helping me out with boot work last minute! And to Andrea for so generously putting me up in her condo in Snowmass. Appreciate the support from everyone!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Next stop... X Games!

So tomorrow the much anticipated X Games journey begins.
I am flying solo from Munich to Aspen, where I will spend the next week having the experience of a lifetime. I have been dreaming about competing in X Games pretty much since I switched to the sport. It is basically the epitome of racing ski cross, or any extreme winter sport for that matter. It's something I am doing totally on my own, and I'm feeling confident and ready for a bit of an adventure!

The ski cross finals will be held on Sunday 29th, at 12pm (US Mountain Time Zone). Catch all the action on Eurosport or ESPN.

Monday, January 16, 2012

7th in Les Contamines World Cup

I can finally stop to take a breath after the past 11 days of non-stop action. This time of the season for the World Cup ski cross athletes is jam packed with racing and travel. Three World Cups back-to-back in 11 days, as well as over 15 hours of driving is a massive feat!

After my somewhat ‘unlucky’ world cup race in St. Johann, we drove over 10 hours from what felt like one side of Europe to the other (Austria, through Switzerland, to France). The next World Cup was in Alpes D’Huez. This track is renowned for being a ‘gliders’ course. Mellow terrain, not ultra technical, with some big floaty jumps… definitely a fun course to ski! It  almost feels like a roller coaster ride on skis. After training on the course in beautiful bluebird conditions, I was pumped and ready to go for qualifications. Half way down my quali run, out came the dreaded yellow flag, meaning course hold. The racer before me, Sasa Faric from Slovenia, had a massive crash off the final jump, and was in no condition to move herself off the course. I got a skidoo to the top and had a re-run. I skied well, however being a wax race (and my skis were basically skied out after the one run), I just didn’t carry the same speed as I did in the first run. Looking at my split times afterwards, my first run was fast and would have qualified me for finals had I not made any mistakes in the last 20 seconds of the course. Pretty frustrating, but hey, that’s life! Luck just didn’t seem to be going my way at all this season!

(Sunrise in Alpes D'Huez)

(Above the clouds)

Turning a negative into a positive, I made the most of the sunny bluebird weather on finals day, and went free skiing before the race. Not something we actually get to do all that often whilst we’re racing.

(Enjoying the sun in Alpes D'Huez)

(The diet of athletes whilst in France....)

Next stop, Les Contamines, France (where it happened to be "crochet-week"). This was my fifth year here (how times flies!), and was actually where I competed in my first ever ski cross World Cup in 2008. This year the course was water injected, making it unbelievably icy and technical; something I thought I could use to my advantage given my alpine background. I skied very well in training, and despite making some mistakes in the qualification run, finished in 15th position. Finally, a spot in finals! 

(Crochet week in Les Contamines! My Oma would love this...)

(Excited to qualify for finals)

(Official bib draw in the town centre)

(The Aussie team with our stylin' Les Contamines freebee hats)

In my quarterfinal heat, I was up against two Frenchies and a Polish. Because I was the slowest qualifier of the heat, I had no choice in start gate. I fired out of the start fighting for my life, and jumped straight into second position behind Alizee Baron of France. I fought the entire way down to finish in second place. Little did I know that the other two girls had a collision higher in the course and weren’t even behind me at all. In the semi finals, I didn’t have a great start and was in third place, until a silly mistake put me back in fourth. Unfortunately not fast enough to make the big final, but I still had a chance to fight for a place between 5th - 8th in the small final. In the small final I got caught up with Marte Hoie Gjefsen of Norway out of the start. I managed to get passed her and jump into second place behind Hedda Berntsen of Norway. Half way down I slipped on the ice and lost my momentum, giving Marte the chance to pass me. I finished the race in third, placing me 7th overall.

(Quarterfinals. I'm in the blue helmet / green pants)

(Through to the semi-finals)

(7th place finish)

I’m very excited to have my first top-8 world cup result. I knew it was there somewhere; I just had to drag out the animal in me! Given the result, I have been invited to compete at the Winter X Games, which are in Aspen, Colorado in late January. This has always been a goal of mine, and something I’ve very excited to be apart of. It is like the Winter Olympics of extreme sports. I leave for Aspen on January 23rd, and will be there for 6 days before I head to Blue Mountain, Canada, for the next World Cup.

Will keep you posted. The next few weeks are going to be big!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ski Cross Action on Eurosport

A great result today in Les Contamines, 3rd in the small finals, 7th overall!

For those who are in Australia, check out all the action from today's Ski Cross World Cup in Les Contamines, France, on Eurosport at 6:30pm (Monday 16 Jan)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2 spots from qualifying in St. Johann

After six days of GS training in and around the Schladming area of Austria, I was feeling ready to take on the hectic piste of St. Johann. I was also looking forward to a change in scene, and getting back into racing! Unfortunately the Australian contingent is now one member short, with Scotty Kneller returning home to Australia with a broken hand after a GS crash during training. Hopefully he’ll have a hasty recovery, and be back by the end of the season to compete in the last few World Cups.

This year (unlike the past two years), the ski cross track wasn’t the usual ice block it is renowned for. Fresh snow all week meant that snow conditions were soft and difficult, however probably more suitable for ski cross racing than double-injected ice. On the training day, I was confident and skiing well. The split times from training showed that I was laying down some fast times amongst the women; a positive sign coming into qualifications. On quali night, the women ran after the men at 7:30pm, so we had a bumpy track to contend with. It was, however, an incredible atmosphere competing under the lights.

For the top 16 women, the weather held off and the snow conditions were consistent. Unfortunately by bib 16, it started puking down with snow; heavy, wet snowflakes literally the size of golf balls. Each run was visibly getting slower and slower, and by the time I went down with bib 20, only one minute after bib 19, I couldn’t see any tracks in front of me. I felt that I skied the pitch really well, but as soon as I hit the flat it was all over. I couldn’t carry my speed on the fresh snow, and it was a desperate fight to the finish. I finished in 18th place, 0.2 of a second from qualifying. I big improvement from 28th and 22nd in San Candido, but still frustrating to be outside of the top 16.

I guess this is all apart of the sport. You can’t control the weather! Rather than remaining annoyed and frustrated with something that is out of my control, one positive I could take out of not qualifying was an epic powder day in KitzbΓΌhel on the day of finals. If I wasn’t racing, I figured I may as well enjoy the freshies that had fallen the night before. These powder days are few and far between, and I made the most of it! True to form, finals was a great spectator event, with thousands of fans lining the course to watch the show.

(Deep freshies through the trees)

(Liam getting comfy in the snow)

After a long 10 hours in the car, we have made it to Alpe D’Huez for the next Ski Cross World Cup. Qualifications are on the 10th and finals on the 11th. Keep you posted!