GB Olympic Mogul skier Ellie Koyander’s Blog

By Ellie Koyander
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January 13, 2010

It’s perhaps no coincidence that the organisers of the World Cup circuit have chosen the world’s toughest moguls courses to test athletes hoping to qualify for the Olympics! Calgary is steep, very steep. To throw a curve ball into the mix the course has a really abrupt ‘kink’ in the middle section right before the bottom jump, where ‘steep’ becomes near vertical as you suddenly accelerate towards the final kicker.

My initial thoughts standing at the top of the run for the first time are ‘this is so steep I can’t even see the rest of the course beyond the first jump, I’ll just have to trust my instincts and spot the landing late. I have to ski this as fast as I am capable and really push myself hard, there’s absolutely no room for error!’

A quick course inspection and my understanding of the slope starts to unravel. First training run: ‘Yes, exactly as I thought, a bit of tweaking here, need to straighten up there, I am starting to connect with this hill.’

In training very few people skied a top to bottom run. I am pleased that not only am I getting good runs in, but that I am attacking the bumps and in complete charge of this course. My coach Pat (Deneen) is really buzzing with my performance. Watching a number of skiers take a hard slam on the bottom jump we decide to make a tactical move to not do a back flip. We decide to do a simpler jump, but to go big with it, and concentrate on getting from top to bottom with my usual 360 at the top air.

Training is still going really, really well and my skiing is the best and fastest it has ever been. My new assistant coach Timmy is really helping to build my confidence. On day one I have three great runs in the short formal training session, I feel confidant and really ‘on it’. Then down time for an hour, waiting for the comp to start. I am doing everything I can to stay warm, it’s been minus 21C and the moguls are blue ice.

“In moguls you have to think fast and keep the mind racing ahead of the feet, anticipating what is coming next.”

It’s crucial to stay positive with my thoughts. Next thing I know I’m called to the start gate… and I am off! I have just 30 seconds of frenzied moguls, trying to ski the best that I have ever skied in my life and prove myself worthy of a spot on Team GB!

I went huge with my 360 jump but as a result flew too far, landing on a rock solid mogul. This is seriously entering injury territory, so I guess I was lucky that my ski popped off. Annoyingly though this is right at the top of the technical part of the course where it’s all about turns. I kicked the snow off my boot, clipped back into my binding and showed the judges what I would have done.

Competition day two: after several days of hard skiing, having to dig deep to ski aggressively and strongly on this course, I can sense fatigue starting to set in. I must push on though, I am here to ski and tiredness can wait until I am on the airplane to the next venue. The three training runs go so well that Pat, my coach, is convinced I will make the final (top 16 women). We review the video of the day before and work on the 360, it’s feeling good.

The Deer Valley course

The Deer Valley course in north America

Back in the start gate… perfect first section, I landed the 360 air and skied on fluidly. In moguls you have to think fast and keep the mind racing ahead of the feet, anticipating what is coming next. I was so focused on controlling the top air and thinking about the landing that my thoughts slipped for a second. That’s all it takes, I should have been thinking about the up and coming ‘kink’ and controlling my skiing to get through it.

I was late with my turns and on this challenging course it only takes four bumps into the really steep section before problems occur and it forces a change of line. From a judges perspective this ‘diversion’ is fatal, even though my time and technique was good.

It goes without saying that I was incredibly disappointed with the result, and ultimately myself. Every world cup result counts on the road to qualifying for the Games, but it’s not meant to be a walk in the park. The challenging Calgary course has prepared me well and provided great experience for the next competition in Deer Valley (America), another long and steep course.

I have taken all the positives away with me from Canada, and can be confident going to Deer Valley knowing that I skied this course really well in 2008, where I won the USA ‘Intermountain Challenge’ and walked away with a gold medal around my neck! I can also take comfort knowing that I have skied the Olympic course (Cypress Mountain) in Vancouver. It is much more of a ‘skiers course’.

The Calgary course was a first for me, and in mogul skiing experience and familiarity really pays off. The only time you get to train on a competition course is ‘in competition’. Calgary got the better of me this year, but I will be back!

I am at the airport right now in Salt Lake, waiting for my coach’s to arrive. More from me after Deer Valley (14th and 16th Jan), in the meantime, you can follow my progress on my website or on Twitter.


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