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Silver medal at World Championships

Right on track for Sochi…

After a disappointing 5th place at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler a new 4-year plan was put in place. Duff Gibson the Head coach of the Canadian Skeleton team since the spring of 2010 sat me down and said, “If you continue on to Sochi 2014 we have to focus on consistency at World Championships”. Having won the Overall World Cup title twice in my career that was a hard mental shift for me to make. I always want to be challenging for the Overall Crystal Globe, but after Whistler, I realized I want to challenge myself to see if I can learn how to race over 4 heats. Our 1st opportunity was last season in Konigssee, Germany despite having a training altering foot injury I accomplished my goal of a consistent 4 heat race and won the Bronze medal at World Championships. A race that Duff & I are still both really proud of. At our post-season review we instantly started talking about Lake Placid, World Champs 2012… same game plan, 4 consistent heats…

This summer I made a risky decision to cross train by rodeoing. I felt I have spent more than half of my life on the road racing and in the weight room training, I wanted to work more on my mental game by barrel racing. I had the opportunity to be in a pressure situation over 50 times as I ran through a gate at either a rodeo or a jackpot trying to learn as much about my mental and emotional state through my horses. And the consequences are severe if you don’t have a handle on them!!! I found myself drawing on my World Cup/Olympic experience any time I felt tense on the back of my horse as I was warming up or heading up the long alley with a hot horse literally chomping at the bit to explode to 1st barrel. As the World Cup season got underway I realized I made a great decision to cross train because I felt balanced yet I was pushing personal bests on the start pretty well every race!

We had a preseason training camp in Lake Placid in November and things finally clicked with Duff & I. He had been coaching me for a full season, but I was still used to the German way from my previous coach who I had worked with for 6 years. Surprisingly, I was seeing the ice differently… and I found that my sliding was full of awareness and I was going pretty fast too… our attainable goal was to win World Championships.

After 2 wins this season, including laying the demons to rest in Whistler,(whistler race video) I was feeling really confident that we were on track with our goal in Placid… More about the process than the result. All season I had consistent runs when weather or damaging equipment wasn’t a factor. Coming off of the World Cup finale in Calgary I was super disappointed. I was sitting in a 3-way tie for the silver medal to discover I hit concrete in the braking stretch after my 1st run and destroyed 1 runner. My 2nd run was technically a solid run but dirt slow, due to the daggers digging into the mile long track. I ended up dropping to 5th spot and 4th in the Overall World Cup standings… So I would not be pre selected for the next season and missed out on $10 000.00 in bonuses… As an amateur athlete the only way we can try to stay ahead of the game is to have results at critical times to qualify for grants/bonuses… Calgary was a really important race for me. I could have easily let a black cloud move in, but during the post race interviews Donna Spencer from Canadian Press asked me about Lake Placid and I instantly got excited! I was over the unfortunate situation and was focused on the goal we had set at the beginning of the season.

Momentum was working in Canada’s favor at World Championships in Lake Placid with our woman’s bobsleigh team Kaillie Humphries and Jenny Ciochetti dominated winning Gold and our men’s bobsleigh team Lyndon Rush and Jesse Lumsden claiming the silver. I was able to get 2 training runs down the track before our team event where we won the Bronze medal! So 3 events and 3 World Championship medals for Canada! My remaining 4 training runs were solid and I was feeling confident in my sliding heading into race day. I was sitting in 3rd after the 1st heat. A great run, but I was 15th ranked on my start (5.50)… I was 16/100ths out from Gold, so I was frustrated that I was 1/10th slower than my personal best on the start… 1/10th is 2.5/10ths at the bottom of the track… I stepped it up a notch the 2nd heat and pushed a 5.43, 2/100ths from my PB and moved into the silver medal position. Day 2 I was amazed of how relaxed I felt. Generally I am that type of competitor, but I did feel like I peaked emotionally for World Championships. Felt completely ready for the challenge. I was sitting 18/100ths out from the Gold medal. Again run 3 my start was slow a 5.51(15th ranked) I had another consistent run but only gained 1/100th on Katie the American who was holding down the Gold medal position. There were some interesting things unfolding behind me and not that far just 2/10ths; there was a battle between the 3 Great Brittan athletes and as we know anything can happen in this sport. Lizzy Yarnold this years Junior World Champion ended up moving ahead of the 2012 World Cup Champions Brit Shelley Rudman… such an impressive race by Lizzy and heartbreaking watching Shelley have a rough run and fall to 4th for the 2nd year in a row… As I was stretching for my 4th and final run I noticed that I started to get a little tight in my shoulders… I recognized this instantly and said to myself… what would happen if I were in this space while on the back of my horse… It would be like a bomb going off… It was the perfect cue for me to stay emotionally present, confident and balanced. I was standing on the ice block as Shelley pushed off talking to Duff about my sled “White Lightning”. He didn’t know my sled was named after the song by George Jones… it was a comical conversation to have on the start line about 2 minutes from the time I was going to be pushing off, but it keep me in the right frame of mind… relaxed and confident.

 

I pushed a 5.43 (9th), I could feel I was lower off the block and had more power to work with. I loaded on my sled and it was like everything was in slow motion and as I was sliding down the track I would get through difficult sections and it was like a checkpoint. Clean out of Shady 2…. low in 12… the last speed killer would be 14… and I came out on the left side so just for extra safety I held it over to the left until I was weightless going into 17 at 119.2km/hr the fastest speed of the heat and I got pretty excited!!! All I had to do was rely on my aerodynamics and muscle memory and I was pretty sure I had just won a World Championship medal… As I came up the braking stretch there were some track workers in the way of the clock but I stretched up as far as my back would let me so I could see my ranking… #1… Guaranteed Silver medal!!!! I was over the top ecstatic!! I would have to wait to see if my run would challenge for the Gold medal, but nonetheless I was so proud to have slid 4 consistent runs. Any color of medal would mean a pre selection for next season and I can try to earn back some of the bonuses that the Calgary race took away from me. I ran up the outrun to meet my boyfriend Paul and just like the win in Whistler it was better to share this exciting time with someone special.

I stood in the winner’s circle and watched American Katie Uhlaender fight her own demons, just days prior it was the 3 year anniversary of her Dad’s death, and she slid the exact same time as me and she won the Gold medal by just 17/100ths… what a fantastic race and I know how rewarding it is to stop the ghosts from haunting… Katie is also a 2 sport athlete, in fact this Sunday she will attempt to qualify for London 2012 in weight lifting.

It’s all about BALANCE in my opinion. I learned that lesson harshly when I failed to make the 2002 Olympic team… I will never again let this sport define me, but I will let it teach me great lessons about hard work, perseverance, teamwork, setting goals, communication and every day life skills. And I will appreciate every journey it takes me on whether that is standing on top of the podium or meeting amazing people. Every day I wake up I have gratitude…  The sliding season is over now and I start getting my horses in shape this week, hope to be ready to enter Medicine Hat Pro Rodeo at the end of April. This spring will be full of lots of school talks too so please fill out your application for me to come to your school to share lots of cool stories here: http://www.passionforexcellence.ca

You tube clips of Lake Placid Day 1 highlights Day 2 highlights


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4 Comments

  1. Tracy Murdoch
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on diverse strategy and and the benifits of it.I have missed fallowing your blog this season .I didnt have a computer while away.Good luck in your up coming riding season. It would be nice to have a schedual in if you are close I can come and see you.

  2. Karl Gompf
    Posted March 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Way to go Mellisa. You continue to amaze us with your determination, skill, and ‘philosophy of life’ –Hope your year ahead will be great fun and most meaningful for you. Karl –from sunny Manitoba

  3. Randy Metchewais
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on a great season Mellisa! You work so hard and its great to see good things happen to good folks. Keep it up and continue that balanced approach. (Physical, mentally, spiritually and emotionally) Its our First Nations way to seek this balance and keeps every individual focused when facing adversity. Best of wishes from the Metchewais family and C.L.F.N.!!!!

  4. Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    it seems hard to find you on t.v. in b.c..god to see you so focused,balanced,and on track!i’m abig fan and look forward to watching you every year !!!!

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Photography Credits: Ewan Nicholson, Candice Albach & Charlie Booker Website by COWS / EDJE