Ellie Koyander Blog: My Vancouver 2010 experience

By Ellie Koyander

ellie koyander vancouver

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Vancouver airport is bustling with people arriving for the Olympics. My coach Pat and I are met by the amazing support staff at Team GB and we are quickly transported to the British quarters of the Athlete Village in downtown Vancouver. The city is just alive with Olympic fever.

Security is tight; you cannot get into the Village or go anywhere ‘official’ without Olympic Accreditation documents, there are frequent checks so we wear these at all times. The mountain is completely shut off to anyone without their Olympic credentials and for the moment Cypress Mountain is a completely desolate private training hill populated by a few athletes and coaches.

On the first day of training there is a huge security alert. A man wanting to watch the women’s moguls action has somehow managed to bypass all the security checks, walk through the woods and is spotted by an armed policeman. Rumour has it that he was in the sights of a sniper and was lucky not to have been shot.

I have emerged from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics a different person and a different skier. I am so privileged to have been a part of Team GB; their support was just incredible

The first couple of days of training are excellent and the widely reported warm temperatures and lack of snow prove to not even be an issue thanks to the incredible work of the organisers. The course is running well on hard packed firm snow enabling me to really attack the hill and cut with my edges. I am skiing at my absolute best.

At the Opening Ceremony, Team GB is assembled and we all walk out into a stadium filled to the brim with over 60,000 spectators. The roar of the crowd is like no other noise I have ever heard and I feel so proud and privileged to be British and representing my country at the Olympics with over 3 billion worldwide viewers tuned in to their TV sets at this very moment in time.

Leaving the Ceremony all I can think about is that it is now raining hard, really hard. My thoughts instantly turn to what is likely to be happening to the course. Cypress Mountain is low and the rain cannot possibly be falling as snow on the hill. I think of the adjustments that I will make to my skiing. Although the Opening Ceremony was spectacular I completely drift off into visualisations of the training run and thinking about how strong my skiing has been and the fact that it’s the first day of the Olympics and my competition day tomorrow.

It is still raining heavily the next day and as we arrive at the mountain there are chilling high winds and dense Pacific fog blowing across the course. When we decamp from the bus we can see the spectators starting to arrive with a sea of umbrellas and glistening rain drenched transparent ponchos. This is not nice skiing or spectating weather but it looks like the show is going to go ahead.

We have just three top-to-bottom runs to get used to the most hostile conditions ever experienced, before training is closed. Things are completely different to the previous days, there is nothing familiar about this course, the firm snow of the past couple of days has transformed into heavy granular grippy slush, and the bumps are getting rutted and steep sided. The landings are steaming away where they have added liquid nitrogen to try to solidify the mush and it makes for an ‘interesting’ ingredient to adjust the balance to then ski into the soft course.

Goggles just don’t deal with rain droplets forming on the lenses and the rain was the biggest issue. Skiing on the course was like driving as fast as you can down a motorway in a storm but without windshield wipers. The strong gusts of wind on the top section kept blowing in patches of fog or suddenly blasting from nowhere and making a smooth flight in the air unpredictable.

Ellie and her coach Pat Deneen

Ellie and her coach Pat Deneen

 
Training runs are done… it’s now time! Before I know it the race has started and I am counting down until it’s my turn. I am composed and relaxed.

Coming into the first air I catch a ‘crab’ in the slush which just pulls my entry into the 360 off-centre, I manage to land the trick but I know that the judges will have deducted points on the landing. I flow on dancing through the bumps and have the most incredible run through the technical section then into my backflip at the bottom. (Watch Ellie’s run here)

My result is up and I am in with a shot to be one of the 20 skiers who progress to the Olympic Final, but by the time the last of the remaining competitors have come down, I finish in 24th place. There have been so many positives that I have taken away and I know that looking at my scores afterwards, the ‘bobble’ at the top air was the only thing that cost me a place in the final. I can’t be unhappy though, Vancouver was all about dealing with really hostile weather conditions on an unpredictable, ever-changing course in front of the world’s audience, and I skied really well given the experience of the field of competitors.

After a run lasting just 31.90 seconds, I have emerged from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics a different person and a different skier. I am so privileged to have been a part of Team GB; their support was just incredible! Pat, Timmy and I have already mapped out the programme for Sochi 2014 with the firm goal of being on the Olympic podium in four years time.

Staying in the Village as an Olympic Tourist now, I am taking in all the other incredible competitions on offer but from the perspective and understanding of a fellow Olympic competitor rather than just a spectator!

For sponsorship and media enquiries please go to ‘Contact’ on my website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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