Finally is the word that comes to my mind. We raced in Sochi, Russia to wrap up a very unsuccessful season for me. I know most people are starting to get excited about the Olympics next year and the intrigue of Russia, but I wasn’t excited to come here. I hope it wasn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I guess it doesn’t help that I arrived and got the flu and spent 3 days in bed sleeping. The 4th sickness of the season, I will be getting a flu shot next year!
The structure of the completely covered Olympic facility is absolutely beautiful. So we were extremely excited to get our 1st runs down the Sochi track. Until we slid through corner 5. That’s where I lost my head under my sled from the bumpy conditions and I soon realized this was going to be a tough couple of weeks on our brains. 2 days of training on the roughest ice I have ever experienced and then the flu hit. I would hear my teammates talk about their headaches and “sled head” fogginess and it really scared me. I have 3 teammates home in Canada sitting out the season because of severe concussions that haven’t only stopped their sliding careers, but changed their lives because they can no longer handle any type of stimulus that we experience on a daily basis. Living in dark, quiet rooms one day; the next trying to go to their jobs so they can put food on the table. Concussions scare me so much I wonder if it’s worth “tobogganing” anymore.
The ice conditions were so bad that the bobsledders started to have headaches… the jury finally shut down training for a couple of days. But only after we would go to training with a start time of 10am to be delayed 20mins… then 1 hr, then another hr to then have sat at the track for 5 hours being told there will be technical meeting and training would resume the next day. Energy being drained and frustration levels would soar. Then we would chuckle, it’s not a big deal, they are only hosting the Olympics in a years’ time why should they be prepared. We would do numerous track walks to never see a track worker trying to improve the ice conditions. From what we were told the poor guys were not taught how to maintain the ice nor did they have the scraping or slushing tools to fix the gaping holes in the ice.
Numerous coaches volunteered to spend time to work on the ice, but the Russian’s refused the help and did nothing about it. Time would go by and runs would be missed. I think we were supposed to have 20 runs down the track before this race, 40 total before the Olympics and I did 9…
That sounds like a bunch of complaining so I will move on to the positive. The track is tricky which I know I will enjoy when I’m healthy. There are uphill sections that if you make mistakes you can lose 5km/hr!!! So consistency will be key at the Olympics and all 4 runs will absolutely count. Exactly what I set my goals to be after the 2010 Games. This race is one of the 1st times I didn’t feel prepared and finishing 14th the only way to describe it is disappointing. But I have a ton of support and instead of dwelling and trying to find a bigger meaning to it all, I have been guided to keep it simple. This season had a theme… if I had been healthier and stronger with my push I would have been fighting for a medal consistently instead of a top 10 result every race. It’s made me hungry to get back into training and also get out of my comfort zone with my equipment. Instead of putting everything away, I have already lined up some options for testing and will be sliding in Calgary until the track closes. Then I will be off to Texas to get the rodeo bug out of my system before our intense summer training starts. I don’t plan on rodeoing this summer. Maybe a jackpot here and there if Pepi is in shape, but we are only 1 year out from Sochi and I hated losing this season so it’s time to get my act together. I will be starting from scratch this fall, unlike the last 3 seasons where I have been pre-selected for the World Cup team; my results were not good enough to give me that buffer(5th at World Championships & 6th in World Cup standings). But again that is probably the best thing for me. Forces me to dig deep and put the work in necessary to represent this amazing country at the Olympic games.