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If you ain’t 1st you’re last….

 

I just lived that in Altenberg, Germany. The track I dread the most on the tour. The track was built for the East Germans prior to the 1988 Calgary Olympics. It was supposed to mock the Calgary design but be a bit more difficult so the Germans would be ready. It also was built so it isn’t visible from the air; a complete secret back in the day. I wish it was still a secret… I had my 2nd ever crash here in 2001. Yes it was a long time ago, but when I stand at the top of this track I can’t help but to have awful pangs in my stomach thinking about corner 4. 1 year ago our Canadian bobsleigh team had a tragic accident here sending 3 athletes to the hospital. It will just never be a pleasant place.

 

BUT I did show up with the attitude that I was going to change my outcome. And day one in training I slid personal bests and was flying down the track. I seemed to have set a new tone in the New Year. Then the weather changed. Altenberg is usually embedded in snow and quite cold. I remember one year the ice temperature being    -17C, so the plan is always to have a control runner. This year it was pouring rain… with a river running down the track. After drawing start #1 I was sitting in 6th after the 1st heat. I had got a bit aggressive in the 360 degree Kreisel turn and skidded my sled on the 3rd pressure. But my game plan was to react to what the track was giving me. Corner 4 being my focus and relaxing more in Kreisel.  When I got to the start line for run 2 I saw the slider before me slide 2.5 seconds slower than our 1st heat! Usually slower is safer on most tracks, but not in Altenberg, it makes corner 4 more difficult. So I prepared myself to be ready. I loaded on my sled and despite my control runner I felt like I was hovering above the ice. There was that much water on the ice. I caught the uptake into corner 1 pushing me away from the corner getting height on the end and putting me late into corner 2. It was a domino effect from there, late into the corner 3. I got into corner 4 decent enough but with the slow speed I was letting it go too much and on the exit I came from too much height and a severe angle that tried to flip me over. I was sliding on 1 runner through corner 5 and I knew my race was over. But the track was far from being finished. And the rest of the run was an absolute disaster. That is the unique aspect of this sport; you have to find that balance of letting the sled fly… too much control can actually be more dangerous.

 

I was grateful to get down to the bottom in one piece. Not making it to the crest of the braking stretch I knew I wouldn’t have kept my spot. When I finally got close enough to the clock to see what #rank I would be the last thing I wanted to do was go up to the finish dock where all of the coaches and other athletes would be crowded around a tv monitor. I saw the #14… which meant I would finish in 19th spot. With only 21 competitors I’d have to swallow my pride and continue the long walk to the finish dock. It was an absolute monsoon, I grabbed my gear and instead of waiting for the truck under protection I stood outside in the down pour just incase some frustrated tears were gonna fall.

 

As soon as I got home to the hotel I immediately went into the weight room. No warm up was needed because my blood was boiling and the lift helped with my frustration and I actually think some good work was done. The workout helped me release some steam and put Altenberg to rest. Start my focus on what really matters… World Championships in St. Moritz. We have 2 more World Cup races before then that will be training races. We have some high volume workouts that will make us feel like disasters but the races will be sacrificed so I can be at my peak performance the beginning of February.

 


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