April 10, 2010

A tough day at the office

With a days rest in between my Slalom and Giant Slalom (GS) races my day off was greatly utilised. A sleep in, followed by a late breakfast was the perfect start. Training had been canceled as there had been a fresh dump of snow overnight and the training hills had not been cleared of this new snow. After watching the boys race it was off to the gym for a light session. A day of chilling out to prepare for my final race of the games.

The morning of the GS started off as per usual an early start was on hand with bad weather expected. Until we reached the hill we didn’t realise just how bad the weather was going to be for the day.

Rain... something that is not normally associated with the mountains and snow but being coastal and warm that’s exactly what we got and it was pouring and pouring for 7 hours straight. It didn’t take long for everyone to become soaked through to the bone. Despite the rain I was still excited, hoping to repeat the efforts from the Slalom- I wanted to have that adrenalin and buzz of another medal.

As I exited the start hut on my first run everything went horribly wrong, during the week so far I had experienced things that I hadn’t previously and that day it was no different except that I lost something I have never lost before when skiing or in my day-to-day life- my sight. As soon as I left the start hut my goggles were completely covered by rain droplets occluding my entire vision; I lost all vision of Eric and the gate and I freaked out, I was scared and had no idea where I was going and what to do, I got to the bottom at a very slow pace. I have always said that if I was completely blind I would never ski let alone ski race and I had just experienced that for the first time and I did not like it one bit. I had no idea of how I was going to try and go faster the next run when it was obvious the rain was not going to stop. My lack of experience had just been revealed completely and I was very impressed with the girls who had got down without any problems with the rain removing part of their vision.

(Eric and I in the GS course)

I had to refocus and figure out how I was going to tackle the 2nd run. With the knowledge that I was going to lose my vision down the course I prepared myself mentally so that it wouldn’t affect me and as I left the start hut the next problem arose- our headsets stopped working.

The headsets which Eric and I use to communicate when we are going through the course for some reason had decided to stop working, I initially wondered why Eric was not talking to me and straight away it hit me- our communication was gone we now had to scream at the top of our lungs to communicate however I could not hear Eric at all down the course. Once again as it was raining I lost my vision and now I had lost my hearing- not a good mix! I made it to the bottom of the course 3 seconds faster than my 1st run, given the circumstances I was happy but bitterly disappointed so many things had gone wrong. I skied nowhere near my best that day but with only 150 days on skis and the extreme conditions my lack of experience had showed, as all ski racers say ‘that’s ski racing’. Eric and I finished in 7th place.

(In the finish area)

A disappointing end to our Paralympic race campaign but I had to be happy my first Paralympic's in the worst conditions the most experienced campaigners had seen and I had a bronze medal. There were so many talented athletes who I believe should have won medals but didn’t and I felt so proud that Eric and I had. All the sacrifices and hard work had paid off. It is an amazing achievement and something no-one will ever be able to take away from us.

I’d like to thank all our supporters who came to Whistler to watch us make our dreams a reality, who sat in the driving rain that day. At the end of my race I took my gloves off, inside were puddles of water I was soaked to the bone and I remembered that our supporters who had been sitting there cheering us on for 7 hours straight were drenched more than I was. Thank you all for your support you were there in the good times and the bad and I appreciate every second you spent supporting me and my team mates.

(The Vancouver motto)

1 comment:

  1. It was worth sitting in the driving rain and snow to see you make history. Well done