Monday, January 27, 2014

Back on-track in Kreischberg

Things feel like they are finally back on-track after my 16th place World Cup result in Kreischberg, Austria, on Saturday. This was the final World Cup before the Olympic Games, so it was great to take some confidence from the race with me to Sochi.

My qualification run on Friday wasn't my finest, and I only managed 27th place. In finals however, I came out of the start gate raring to go. In my first heat, I had a great start and took the lead. I finished second in my heat and progressed through to the next round. Unfortunately in the quarter finals I didn't manage to finish in the top two, therefore I was knocked out of the next round and finished in 16th place overall.

A big congratulations to Australian Development Team member Rebecca Wyatt who qualified for her first World Cup finals, and finished 23rd. Awesome effort! And to long running team mate Jenny Owens, who competed in her 101st and final World Cup Ski Cross event.

The plan now is to head to Orcieres, France, for two Europa Cup ski cross races prior to the Games. From here on, I need to stay on my toes and in peak mental and physical condition for the Games. For me, racing head-to-head is the best type of pre-Olympic preparation I can get. 

After France, we will travel to Obertilliac, Austria, for a pre-Olympic training camp. We will be joined by the Austrian, Polish and Czech ski cross teams for our final preparations. 

Then on to Sochi!

Around the first negative turn: Myself, Marielle Berger (FRA), Alize Baron (FRA), Julie Jensen (NOR). Photo by GEPA

Fighting to stay in front. Photo by GEPA

Qualifications. Photo by GEPA

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Olympic Qualification period comes to a close

It’s been a crazy few of weeks here in Europe.

After the two late-December World Cups in San Candido, Italy, we returned back to the AIS European Training Centre in Gavirate, Italy. Here we had a week off to rest, recoup and recondition in the gym. This facility has been an incredible asset for our team this year. Rather than going to unfamiliar hotels in between races, we get to come back to a place that feels like a home away from home. We can return to the same familiar bedroom, unpack, do our laundry, cook healthy meals and use the world-class gym and recovery facilities. It sounds pretty simple, but a lot of these things are surprisingly difficult to find whilst on the road in Europe.

We celebrated Christmas day in style at the European Training Centre with a big lunch. To be honest it’s always tough being away from home on such an important day. I’ve spent only one Christmas at home in Australia in the past 13 years. And I’m sure every athlete there on Christmas day was in the same boat. Being amongst fellow Australian friends, however, was comforting. There were 25 of us in total, including National Team athletes from cross-country, skeleton and ski cross, as well as AIS and coaching staff.

Sunset over Lake Varese outside the AIS on Christmas afternoon.

Gavirate, Italy.

Training in Domodossola, Italy, over the Christmas period.

Refreshing to be able to cook again at the European Training Centre.

 Physio sessions in the afternoons... Gotta love needles in the back of the knee!

Following our Christmas / NY break, the lack of snow in central Europe resulted in the cancellation of not one but three consecutive World Cups; one in Megeve, France, and two in Bischoffsweisen, Germany. As a replacement, Val Thorens hosted two World Cups this week. With the official closing date for Olympic qualification period being January 20th, these were the final two qualifying races for Ski Cross.

I finished 21st and 26th at the races, which for me was quite disappointing. I know that I am skiing fast and the elements are all there in training. It just hasn’t quite come together in the races for me. My knee is back on track and I’m feeling physically fit and strong. It’s just a matter of putting everything together on the race run! The important thing is I am confident in myself and my ability, despite the injury setback and average results to date this season.

A big congratulations to my teammates Sami Kennedy Sim who finished 4th in the second World Cup (a PB!), and Anton Grimus who qualified 1st in the first World Cup. Two great results.

On the positive side for me, the Olympic qualification period is now closed and I have finished with a world ranking of 20th. It is still ‘unofficial’, but I can now safely say that I have qualified for my second Winter Olympic Games. The Australian Olympic Team will be officially announced within the next few days, and will include five Australian athletes for Ski Cross… our entire team! After years of hard work, it’s a huge relief that we have all made the Olympic team and will have the opportunity to represent Australia at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. It is also exciting to be apart of the biggest ever Australian Winter Olympic team in history.

Nice view for the coaches up on the cliff.

The finish jump in Val Thorens. A solid 30m from takeoff to landing.

The Germans excited to hit this jump!

Val Thorens start gate. Image by GEPA

Flying high above the mountains in my qualifying run. Image by GEPA

Race 1 against Marte Hoeie Gjefsen of Norway and Ophelie David of France. Image by GEPA

Racing it out for the top two finishes. From left: Reina Umehara of Japa, Katrin Offner of Austria, myself and Danielle Sundquist of Canada. Image by GEPA

The ski room.

Anton at the bib draw.

Sami and the team after her fourth place finish.

I am now on my way to Kreischberg, Austria, for the final World Cup event before the Olympics. Even though it’s not an Olympic qualifier, I see it as a great opportunity to practise race strategy, and hopefully lock down a good result before the Games.