April 30, 2010

Success in the west

The athletics nationals this year were held in Perth so I made my way over for my first trip to WA with only one thing on my mind- to produce a World Championships ‘A’ qualifier to guarantee my spot on the team for the World Champs to be held January 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

My first morning in Perth and I headed out for a walk around Kings Park, a beautiful park which overlooks the city and surrounding waters. A very relaxing place to visit, on this particular day however the Red Bull Air Race was taking place. From our view point at the park we could see and hear the planes as they roared around the course, a lot of fun to watch! Later that day I headed out to have a look at the track and to have a light training session.

(View from Kings Park overlooking Perth)

(A plane weaving it's way through the course)

My first event of the meet was the long jump and unfortunately my lack of running over the past year proved to be my major problem. I had a lot of trouble with my run up taking off well before the platform. My best jump left my 3cm short of the distance I wanted.

Disappointing but I knew that if I had taken off from the ideal position I would have jumped a lot further than I needed. I finished the competition in 4th place, not entirely bad given my lack of training! Luckily there are still more opportunities to qualify later in the year.

(On the runway)

My second and last event the Javelin was my last chance to produce the qualifier so I would be named in the first round of team selection. Javelin is a new event for me as this is the first time it has been available to visually impaired women so this was also the first Javelin competition I had ever been in.

I went out with only one thing in mind, the distance I needed to get that ‘A’ qualifier. I had my first throw and was 2 metres over the distance I needed! I had just guaranteed my spot for the World Championships and I was very excited, the rest of the competition I just used for practice. I ended up finishing 2nd but I was happy I had come to Perth for the ‘A’ qualifier and I had done the job.

I was even more excited because the end of my event meant that I was now officially on break! Finally a chance to rest and enjoy some well deserved time off from training and competing!

April 25, 2010

No rest for the wicked...

There was no time for a break the deadline was on I had 3 weeks until the Australian Athletics Nationals and I needed to produce some qualifiers so I would be named into the Australian team for the Athletics World Championships to be held in Christchurch January 2011.

The day after my return from Vancouver I was on the train to Melbourne to head back to Olympic Park for a jumps session. It was great to see my coaches and teammates again. They were very excited to hear my stories and of course to see my medal! It was a very weird feeling to be back running and jumping my legs had been using a completely different method to go fast of late! After the first few strides down the grass everything seemed to click back, I had done this so much before that my body had automatically remembered what it was supposed to do even though it still felt weird.

I competed in the Victorian Open Athletics Championships just 2.5 days after I had arrived home and I won the long jump! This was great encouragement to me showing that although I was nowhere near my athletics fitness I hadn’t lost anything from all that skiing.

Next stop is the Go For 2&5 Athletics Australia National Championships in Perth!

Homeward bound

Now that the games were officially over it was time to go home. A sad moment for everyone I had so much fun throughout the whole games and I was really enjoying soaking it all up after my races had concluded.

The morning after the Closing Ceremony the exodus had begun teams were leaving as early as 6am. We weren’t due to depart for Vancouver Airport until 5pm so it was a good opportunity for us to say our goodbyes to our friends from all over the world and to finish packing. There was so much to pack! I personally had 8 bags; 4 to freight 2 for under the plane and 2 for on-board not to mention carrying my ceremonial flowers and this didn't even include any of my skis- one of the worst things about being a ski racer is having so much gear.

We departed for Vancouver, once again taking in the magnificent scenery that the coastline provides. We got to the airport early meaning we had a few hours to kill until our 11.45pm flight. After all the flying I had done over the past 4 months it was great to finally be on a flight back home. I was very excited to be able to see my family and friends again and share with them my medal and stories.
(Vancouver Airport)

It was definitely my lucky day on the flight I scored 3 seats to myself so I slept for 2/3rds of the flight, watched a couple of movies and boom the flight was over- it was great!

Arriving in Sydney myself and Australia's 2 other medallists were ushered straight off to a press conference. We were welcomed home by Therese Rein, an honorary member of the International Paralympic Committee who also happens to be our Prime Ministers wife. A lovely lady, it was a pleasure chatting with her about the Games and our experiences. After the press conference there were a few radio and TV interviews to do and then it was off to transfer to domestic for my flight back to Melbourne. I was so excited to be back in Australia walking through the airport hearing familiar accents and seeing familiar sights was great.

Arriving into Melbourne was even better I walked off the plane to be greeted by family including our long time family friend who also happens to own a chauffeur business... I was being taken home in a stretch limo! I walked outside and it was a magnificent day, it was great to be home. As we reached Geelong the first stop was along the waterfront for a newspaper interview and to have some photos taken. Then finally it was time to go home drop my bags and collapse onto my bed in relief. It had been a long 4 months away, it had all been worth it but as they say theres no place like home.
(A photographer taking some photos upon my arrival home)
(Soaking in the sun down by the Geelong Waterfront)

April 24, 2010

The Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony

The Closing Ceremony of the Games brought out mixed emotions for all the athletes, we were able to celebrate our successes but it was also very sad to know that everything we had worked for was now over. It was a great chance to soak in the final event of the Games and reflect on our experiences. The Ceremony was held in a unique way, rather than being held in a large stadium the VANOC committee decided to hold the event in the Whistler Village. At first I was sceptical about this, walking into BC Plaza as we did at the Opening Ceremony was a magical experience and I wanted to re-live that, instead we were to have our march along the Whistler streets. I was pleasantly surprised as this turned out to be a lot of fun!

Unfortunately once again mother nature was playing a role as it was pouring with rain. As we assembled at the beginning of the march with all the other countries the volunteers were handing out the clear plastic ponchos we had become so accustomed to over the past 2 weeks. The mood was still high everyone was excited and as we started marching the clouds parted and it stopped raining! It also became apparent that the crowds too were as excited as the athletes. The streets were jam packed with people cheering as we walked along. People were also on apartment balconies, hanging out windows, up trees or on top of statues anywhere they could find a spot where they could see us marching. A local later told me how he had never seen so many people line the streets before, the atmosphere was incredible and felt very personal as we high fived the crowds along the way. The Aussie’s had come out in force waving their flags and chanting Aussie Aussie Aussie as soon as they saw us! As we came to the end of our march we entered into the Medals Ceremony Plaza which had now been converted into an arena.

(Marching through the Whistler streets)

(Aussie's showing their support in any little way!)

(The Closing Ceremony Plaza)

The usual speeches, national anthems, and traditional Canadian entertainment featured throughout the ceremony. This included singing, dancing, a traditional Canadian blanket toss and the handing over of the Paralympic flame to Seochi, Russia where the Games will next be held in 2014. As the ceremony officially came to a close the fireworks began the sky was alight with colour and as we got up to leave the rain started again.

(Hoola hoop gone to the extreme!)
(Traditional Canadian blanket tossing)
(A Russian Olympic figure skater & Paralympic swimmer figure skate whilst an artist creates a sand drawing to showcase Seochi 2014)
(The Paralympic flame now in the hands of Seochi, Russia)
(Fireworks to officially end the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games)

Following the Ceremony the Australian team held a small function to celebrate what is officially the best result the Australian Paralympic ski team has ever produced. A great way to celebrate the end of the Games with our family, friends and supporters.