Ellie Koyander Blog: ‘Next stop Vancouver!’
February 12, 2010
There have been a number of life changing events since my last blog - the sort of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœpost in the ground’ events that will make it to my autobiography, if I am ever asked to write one!
A letter arrived back home last week from the British Olympic Association. It was official - I had formally received an invitation to become a Member of Team GB to represent Great Britain at the Vancouver OlympicsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ that was just the most incredible feeling, especially after such an aggressive and hard fought series of World Cup competitions this season.
News of the letter also triggered such a deep feeling of happiness for my coach Pat Deneen and others involved in my programme over the past five years - we have all been so committed and worked so, so hard for this very moment!
A couple of weeks ago I was still wondering about my position and whether I had done enough to make the cut in to the Games.
I am writing this blog from the buzz inside the Olympic Village. Reflecting on recent events I am so full of respect for anyone who has risen to the challenge of qualifying for the Olympics. The past five years have all been so carefully planned, but nothing prepares you for this journey better than going out there and facing whatever comes your way.
A couple of weeks ago I was still wondering about my position and whether I had done enough to make the cut (top 30 women moguls skiers in the World) in to the Games.
I had the best runs of my life in training in Calgary. This course has to be the most challenging moguls slope in the world - it is unbelievably steep!! It was so brutal to then have had Ã¢â‚¬Ëœissues’ dialling into the hill and adapting my skiing on each day of competition. Before that, in Finland, I caught an edge at the very bottom of an otherwise perfect run, whilst the day before my run was fine, just not fast enough to do any damage on the scoreboard.
The World Cup at Meribel was cancelled meaning that there was one less opportunity to prove myself and score FIS World Cup points. It was a really tough place to be at the end of the first wave of competitions, really tough! Producing results at every World Cup competition during the Olympic qualification window is not just important, it’s crucial.
So, leading up to the final two races of the qualification window at Deer Valley, I am comforted knowing that keeping a calm, strong and positively focussed head is something that I have always been naturally gifted with.
The environment at Deer Valley is raw; you can sense the nervous tension. Coaches jobs depend on their athletes getting results, the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsuper-nations’ of skiing all have their entire World Cup Teams here. The athletes all know that their numbers will be whittled down to perhaps just three or four filling up their Nation’s Olympic quota spots.
For each nation there is a competition within a competition and friendships are most definitely temporarily put on hold until after the races. Television crews are following the Japanese, the USA and Canadian Teams - it seems everywhere you look there is someone being interviewed and it all adds a unique atmosphere to the event.
In training the day before the competition things are going well until I take a huge slam and face plant hard onto an icy bump, it feels like I may have broken my nose! Training temporarily stops as they clear the blood tinged snow and me off the course, my training is cut short – that’s all I need. I go and get a check up for concussion and signs of any other more serious head injuries.
The next day its competition day and despite my painfully swollen nose and emerging black eyes I am focused on one thing though, in these last two races at Deer Valley I am going to deliver.
My goggles really hurt to wear but the start gate is a magical place where even pain disappears. Leading up to the brow of the competition slope I know that the next 30 seconds on this hill is probably going to determine whether I get to go to the Vancouver GamesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ I am ready and I just know that I am going to nail this.
The first comp is over in flashÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ it’s gone well, a solid performance. My coaches have calculated that I need to do even better to consolidate my position in the second comp – its all going to be on the last race. The draw order is announced; I am second to last on the start list. It gets cold waiting as the race list slowly winds its way down the field of competitors, everyone is charging the course putting in the run of their lives in the last competition of the Qualification window, the steep slope is getting more and more rutted, there’s a noisy crowd of around 8,000 spectators at the bottom.
After watching fifty or so racers tackle this long and steep course I step up to the start gate, the TV camera is inches from my face but my focus remains straight down the fall line.
The start official speaks into his radio, makes eye contact with me and then I hear the words I am waiting forÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Ã¢â‚¬ËœRacer ready, 3, 2, 1′ I am completely in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœrace-mode’ and I am off! I am focussed on every bump ahead, flowing fast through the fast middle section after my first jump, then into my backflip at the bottom kicker, landing perfectly and racing for the finish line. Even before I see my score I just know that I have had a great run and notched up some crucial points, I can just feel in my bones that I have done enough.
The results flash up, I look over to Pat, we are good at long distance non-verbal communication but the signals are clear to anyone, he is smiling and seeing him repeatedly punching the air signals to me Ã¢â‚¬ËœNEXT STOP VANCOUVER!’
There is however nothing like receiving the formal BOA confirmation in writing, it’s just such an incredible sense of achievement and a real privilege to be elected to Team GB.
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