Friday, 20 June 2014

A Brave New World

I have been the instigator and heart of ‘Team Chemmy’ for almost 30 years. Since 1984 I defined myself as being a ski racer. A few months ago I made the tough decision to stop pursuing my ski racing dreams. Thankfully, I quickly became busy redefining myself as a bride planning an end of season wedding. This ended in the most fabulous day on June 6th when I became Mrs Crawford. 

So now what? Everyone says the world is your oyster and you can be anyone you want to be. But what if you want to be exactly who you were before but just look and think of the world differently?

I admire Chemmy Alcott the ski racer a lot. She showed heart, determination and passion. As the new Chemmy Crawford I aim to build on that. In a few years, Dougie and I, would like to try to start a family and our new and most important roles will be as parents. 

So now is my time to find out who I am away from competition (not away from the slopes as I will undoubtably be still calling them home come winter time!)

I feel through all my experiences as a racer and the challenges I faced, I have learnt skills to possibly help others. This ‘bouncebackability’ word often used to describe the last few years of my career was a result of how I viewed injury as an opportunity. To turn negatives into positives. To choose how you react to them. Everyone at some point in their lives faces adversity. Mine were not just professional challenges. Personally life also through me some big curve balls. The shock of my mother passing away in my early 20s was undoubtably a turning point in how I lived my life. It made me realise the importance of living every day; every moment. 

That is where my positivity and sunny outlook comes from. But this has also given me the tools to help others through tough times. Whether that be through public speaking, the consultancy business I will set up to help anyone from businesses, schools, and budding young ski racers to World Cup elite athletes or as part of the management side where I am already in talks to help former fellow British Winter Olympians get the support they need, or in my role as a mentor for Surbiton High School’s talented athlete programme. 

But there is a huge part of me that will remain unfulfilled by my decision to retire from racing - I am and always will be a competitor. So how will I satisfy that? Well I want to remain involved in healthy lifestyle, in pushing myself physically to see what I can achieve. 

So I am going to start a 12 week challenge life and blog along the way - inevitably I won’t always succeed with the challenges I choose but it is about how I can adapt and the psychology of how I will aim to face them that I am looking forward to.

My first is slightly less than 12 weeks away. #ChemChallenge1 is Ride London. Yes, for my first I am going to play it slightly safer since I don’t have the preparation time. As part of the Telegraph team on August 10th I will tackle the 100 mile cycle race, following some of the route that the London Olympians rode. We will be raising money for Bliss, the official Prudential RideLondon charity, which provides care and support for premature and sick babies and their families and giving £10 per rider, per mile – so fingers crossed if all six of our team finish that will mean £6,000 goes to Bliss.

Part of me thinks I can manage this challenge because I have done a lot of biking in the past to build up my endurance on the slopes. But the bigger part of me knows that sitting on a bike for 6 hours is not something an ex racer trained for 2 minute competitions will be comfortable with!

So next monday on Facebook  I will upload my first blog about how training is going, my fears and excitement and of course how much chamois cream I used in the first week!!

So welcome to the new life of Chemmy Crawford! 

Friday, 28 February 2014

My Olympic Experience

Once every four years, after thousands of hours of hard work and pushing our bodies to the limit, we get the chance to show the world what we can do.

The pressure of pulling out your perfect run in those 2 minutes can be all absorbing. The spotlight is on you, your sport and your nation.

You stand in the start knowing that there are 50 other girls, your peers, who have worked equally as hard and some have more skill than you, others have less experience but you smile knowing that you are in ultimate control of the outcome of probably the most important 120 seconds of your career.

You prepare to execute your plan, to charge the free-falling steeps, to absorb all the undulating terrain, to ski as aerodynamically as possible on the bumpy flats and to stick to the line. In a sport with such speed as downhill racing, with huge variables, even the winner rarely has a perfect run. It is about taking risks and minimising mistakes.

The finish area of the Olympics is charged with emotion. Whether it is the ultimate in happiness and disbelief of having won one of the most precious pieces of metal in the world or disappointment at knowing you did not ski your best.

As I fist pumped through the finish in the Downhill, having maybe not had my perfect run but knowing I had, in the circumstances, done my very best, I felt incredibly proud seeing that I was in 19th place and less than 2 seconds off the lead. Despite having finished 11th in multiple Olympic Games, the DH in Sochi was definitely one of my most emotional because of all the battles I had overcome just to be in the start gate.

There were sections with bumpy right footed traverses that I just had to muscle through because my feelings for rolling onto my ‘hero’ right leg are not yet there. The rest I had to charge but with controlled aggression.

After the high of the DH, the challenge of a Super G which held a lot of victims with an uncharacteristic number of DNFs (did not finish) was something I felt I had the confidence to attack. It is amazing how quickly your expectations run away with your real time goal settings. I forgot completely about how much I had battled through rehab in the last 6 months, I forgot that I had only skied less than 10 minutes in a competitive environment before arriving in Sochi. I knew I had a chance of something special and for about 80% of the run I took that chance, then, like many others, suffered at the bottom, fighting hard for the finish taking a very slow line. Finishing 23rd should have been a just result. I am gutted that I ended such an amazing 14 years of Olympic Journey by being a bit pee-ed off with myself but that is my nature. I have always expected a lot from myself and in my heart I will always be a racer.

I wish everyone had the chance to be part of an Olympic Team just to know how proud you feel to be representing your country on the world stage. But obviously this would take the exclusivity out of it and it wouldn’t be so special. But being part of this Team GB, the most successful for a very long time, is indescribable. It is not just the inspiration of the medal winners - Jenny, Lizzy and both curling teams but each individual who had their own personal story and tests in order to represent their nation.

During the London Games in 2012, I was so proud to be a supporter of Team GB. The home Olympics inspired me more than I knew. It was only as I walked out as part of our Winter Olympic team into the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Olympics that I realised how special it is.

“Hot Cool Yours” - for me has its own meaning.

Hot is the feeling of love and support that I felt from everyone in Team GB.

Cool was how you had to act to perform your best.

YOURS because without my family, friends and sponsors and everyone who believed in me, time after time, injury after injury, then there would have been no chance I would have been part of this epic and emotional Olympic Games.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Our fantastic Olympic fundraiser!

A few weeks ago Dougie and I hosted a fabulous Fundraising night. The idea for the 9th October event hatched a while back when we sat down and budgeted what we needed in order to get to the Sochi Olympics. Despite both having very generous support from our sponsors (mine being Columbus Direct, Caxton FX, Jack Wolfskin, Skiset and Reeves, Dougie’s Sky Scanner, Hazledene, Ski Scotland and Nevica) we still fell far short of our target.
Instead of taking the easy way out and using some kind of Kick-starter website, we decided to challenge ourselves by organising an event - a night combining our passions - sport, cuisine and rock music!

My philosophy in life is on the lines of Go Big or Go Home so in our first venture into the world of event hosting and managing we pulled out all the stops. From the historical and stunning venue of Plaisterer’s Hall to the colourful and professional Question of Sport set, from asking the help of the fantastic Auctioneer (and fellow sportsman) Ed Giddins to the best after dinner entertainment band in the UK, RPJ.

Alongside the support of Sporting Legends and many Gold medallists including Amy Williams, Pete Reed, Graham Bell, Simon Shaw and Brian Moore and my close Dancing on Ice pals Heidi Range and Chico, the event MCed by Matt Chilton proved a resounding success.

Not only did we raise almost double our predicted goal (huge thanks here go to Graham Bell and his Ski Sunday prize experience and Canadian Affair who contributed so generously to the auction) but smiles were seen on every face throughout the patriotically lit room!

Thanks go to Matt Chilton, Heidi Range, Chico, Graham Bell, Amy Williams, Pete Reed, Simon Shaw and Brian Moore for, despite not being prepared, got involved to help us with our fundraising.

The highlight for many guests was definitely the chance to see the “man love” between Chico and Graham (whilst they re-enacted a Greco Roman Wrestling pose) and Simon Shaw lying on top of Brian Moore (as the two man luge!)

Thank you all for losing your inhibitions!!

More thanks to Ed Giddins and his hugely energetic and persuasive performance in helping us with the Live Auction and thank you to the many who donated such fabulous prizes.

Naturally no Ski Fundraiser would be complete without the opportunity to challenge friends to the Shot Ski!

And just when guests thought the night was coming to a close, Rick Parfitt Junior rocked everyone’s socks off and proved once again that he is THE best band (in this case Apres Ski band) ever.

One more big thanks goes to Bidtech who helped us design some awesome iPads for the evening!

All the hard work that Dougie and I put in (he whilst on a 7 week training camp in Chile and myself fitting it around all my rehab) definitely paid off. We thought it would be a one off but a few weeks post event many an email has been received saying that the guests can’t wait to do it all again next year. So now my mind starts working - maybe this is how I can help the next generation. I believe we have the potential to be a massively competitive ski nation. The BSS are supporting the technical skiers. But what about us downhillers? We have proved that we can be fast in the past - Konrad Bartelski, the Bell brothers, Finlay Mickel, myself and Dougie - so why take that away from the future British Speedy gonzales. Maybe by making this Fundraiser a yearly event Dougie and I can create a team of talent - youngsters with the potential and guts to follow in our footsteps and hopefully send them down to Chile during the summer for some much needed experience on the speed side.

Food for thought?

Don’t get me started!!

First my focus is Sochi and NOTHING is going to stand in my way!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Life on the road

When I’m on the slopes in training, or enjoying a bit of down time after a competition, I often reflect on my career and how appreciative I am for the opportunities skiing has given me. The incredible people I’ve met, the enchanting places I’ve been, none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the sport I love. Of course it’s not without a lifetime of commitment and hard work, but I really am grateful for the adventures I’ve enjoyed, whilst looking forward keenly to those, like Sochi 2014, that I’m yet to experience.  A big part of life as a professional ski racer is dealing with constant travel during the season, which can be as challenging as it is exciting. In today’s post I’ll be looking at some of the difficulties of life on the road and how I’ve learnt to deal with them.

A lack of contact with loved ones and events back home is the single toughest part of being on the road. When a competition is looming, it’s fair to say I’m in full race mode, with only the race ahead on my mind. Nevertheless, this period of steely focus only accounts for a fraction of my time spent abroad. At the airport, in training, back at whichever hotel it happens to be on any given day, there’s plenty of time to miss those who are dearest to me. In these moments it’s vital that I can connect with everybody in the UK whose support I rely on. My solution? Texts, calls, Skype, Facebook, emails – all the technology a girl can get! Thankfully one smart phone, along with decent Wi-Fi access is enough to make use of all these tools and stay connected. I particularly love Skype when I’m on my travels. Being able to see a friendly face as well the ability to chat is a great treat. When being at home isn’t an option, technology saves the day.

A busy schedule is another part of my life on the road that is unavoidable for Athletes. This throws up the issue of staying organized and the need to plan absolutely everything. First to be mapped out is luggage. Keeping on top of any number of essentials like equipment, race gear, clothing, passport etc., whilst also trying to pack light takes a fair bit of forethought. A checklist is a classic, but essential method of ensuring nothing is left in my cupboard! Next and equally important is my itinerary, ensuring that each moment of my trip is maximised. Even down to which outfits to wear on each day; an itinerary goes a long way to making sure a trip runs smoothly. Finally, it’s important to plan your spending. When my minds focused on other matters, be it racing, training, or flying back to my warm bed - it’s easy to forget about a budget and look back in hindsight as costs mount up. One way I’ve dealt with this is to set myself a trip budget before I leave and strictly stick to it. Personally, I find the most convenient way to handle my money abroad is to use a prepaid currency card. I want my life on the road to be as simple and stress free as possible, and my Caxton card provides this. I simply transfer the amount of money I want to take, and voila, I now have a visa card that I can use at cash points and checkouts. And the added bonus? I don’t have to worry about pricey bank charges greeting me on my arrival home, and the exchange rate that I receive normally beats the high street... so I don’t feel too bad about splashing on some new perfume at the duty free.

Along my way I’ve learnt plenty about making the most of life on the road, too much to list in one post. But if there is one thing I’d tell young athlete’s at the beginning of their careers, it’s that successful travel is about patience.  After all, an extra hour in the airport isn’t a big deal if you get home safe.

Don't forget to follow me @ChemmySki on Twitter to keep up to date with me on my travels!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Good riddance Titanium rod and 10 screws!

In August in New Zealand I will ski pain free.

Please don’t brush that statement off lightly. Having comeback in all my metallic leg glory after that crash in Lake Louise in December 2010; being able to ski without pain will be a dream come true.

I have proved I can ski fast as I am. Scoring World Cup points in my first World Cup back on the same course that threatened to end my career showed that my guts and determination to come back to the sport I love were not in vain. I have backed that up with other World Cup points scores throughout the tour.

I don’t look closely at qualification or criteria, I have the self belief to know that if I am on my A game I will be in consideration. But others have told me I am definitely on course to compete in my fourth Olympics in Sochi next February.

On a good day I am among the top 30 in the world. In training when conditions have been more favourable I have been top 20 and winning splits. This is good, considering what I have been through and the limited resources and support I have. But I know I can be faster. What holds me back is pain. There are two sources of this, one is the bridging area of where the metal ends and my natural bone starts. You never think about bones being flexible - but under strain and in intense sporting positions your bones flex and adapt to the pressures. Well the majority of my tib can’t do this! The other source of pain is a still existing break in the tib. Every-time I hit a bump and in the middle of every turn when the pressure is at its maximum I have to take a sharp intake of breath and ski through. Some of you who have watched my skiing closely this year will have possibly noticed my right turns are weaker than my left and especially in flat light conditions or bumpy terrain, to ease this pain I have had a tendency to ski with a very narrow stance thus evening the pressure out with the use of my ‘good’ left leg. This is how you manage pain. You adapt. Unfortunately in a sport like ski racing where you always have to be on the limit and looking for speed, having such a weak second turn means you limit your capability to make and maintain speed.

The crash at the World Champs in the training run was a little wake up call. Since then I have been fighting to get back to ski the last few races. But skiing and racing are two entirely different things. Maybe in another month I would be able to ski. But to make it worth the wait I need to be able to RACE!

Because of all of the above, I finally came to the decision yesterday to keep my focus on the big goal - fulfilling my potential with a personal best next February at the Sochi Olympics. To do this I need to get rid of all this pain. And to get rid of the pain I have to remove all the metal work and get healing. Decisions to have surgery never come lightly but in this instance the risks are massively outweighed by the benefits I will have of being able to focus my everything on making speed and not having to adjust for a ‘weaker’ side.

The comeback is something I know all about. But last time I was coming back with an impediment. This time I will come back fresh and without any excuses not to ski fast!!

Chemmy will undergo surgery this Friday morning (1st March) in Innsbruck by Austrian Ski Team physician Doc Fink.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Looking back at past Winter Olympic Games with 1 year to go until Sochi!

Yesterday marked exactly one year until the Sochi 2014 Olympics and it’s fair to say my sights are firmly set on my ultimate goal of competing there. The fact it’s never far away from my thoughts, isn’t a nuisance as you might assume, instead it acts as an aid to keep me focused. With that in mind, I wanted to share some memorable and inspirational moments from past Winter Olympics. 

Steve Bradbury – 2002
The first memorable moment took place during the Salt Lake City games. Having been in the Australian short-track skating team for over a decade, Bradbury finally got his shot at glory in 2002, 1000 meter final. Narrowly reaching the quarter final thanks to a disqualification, the Aussie relied on a tactic of staying out the way of trouble to progress past the semi final, after other competitors crashed out. Getting to the final was an unexpected event in itself, but what happened next was a shock to everyone, not least Bradbury. Trailing the leading pack, his destiny seemed set, until a huge wipe out saw all the other competitors knocked to the ground. All that was left to do was to cruise to the finish and claim Australia’s first Winter Olympic Gold. A great example of how far you can get by never giving up.

The four-man Jamaican Bobsleigh Team – 1988
The second inspiring moment I want to share comes from Calgary 1988. The four man Jamaican bobsled team became cult favourites for being the most unlikely team at the games. Against expectations they put in solid performances, but it wasn’t until a crash on one run that they cemented their names in Winter Olympic folk lore. The team rose from the crash unscathed, and in a true show of Olympic spirit, walked to the finish line to great applause. The story was later captured in the Disney’s film Cool Runnings.

Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean – 1984
Looking to Britain for the next memorable moment, who can forget Torvill and Dean, (even if I was a bit young to remember seeing it live). Their gold medal interpretation of Bolero at the Sarajevo games of 84, was arguably more art than sport, but it was certainly also poetry on ice. The performance struck a chord with us Brits and remains an enduring Olympic memory.

Herman Maier – 1998
The final inspirational Olympic moment is the one that stands out most to me. Not just because it involves one of the best Alpine Ski Racers in history, but also as it is an example of a miraculous recovery from a serious crash, which has helped inspire me on my road to recovery. Going into the downhill at Nagano 98, Herman Maier was the pre-race favourite. However, a spectacular crash saw Maier flying through the air, land on his head and crash through three layers of safety netting. The crash looked impossible to walk away from, but ‘the Herminator’ managed much more than that. Three days later he came back to win both the Super G and Giant Slalom – a truly heroic performance!

Of course that’s just a small selection of the many memorable and inspired moments that the Winter Olympics has provided. What are some of your favourites?