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?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Getting ready to race in the 2013 World Championships!

In just over a year I will be preparing for the big one, Sochi Olympics 2014. Despite being more than 365 days away this thought is never far from my mind. Every World Cup is a stepping stone closer, every training run an opportunity to tweak the equipment, technique and mindset needed to be a contender next February.

Right now I am at home resting for the second biggest milestone in this 4 year Olympic cycle. Next week the World Champs start in Schladming, Austria. Only every 2 years the Worlds is always a big event but this year being in front of a huge fanatical, almost ski obsessed Austrian crowd will possibly be the biggest and best World Ski Champs ever.

I am excited to have qualified, to have proved I deserve to be amongst the best. It is always tough to play out a comeback year. To know what to expect and when to just let  it happen. It is challenging to be patient and let yourself ease back into things. In the words of Queen, every ski racer I know ‘wants it all’ and ‘wants it now.’ I know what I can achieve - in training days when the weather is consistent I have been up there with the best, even having the fastest split. In the races the weather has played havoc with fairness and the early runners have been grasping their opportunities well. Starting outside the top 30 I haven’t had the best luck but I have fought and battled (St Anton anyone?) my way down and notched up a few top 30s. Sometimes, considering my leg and my rustiness, this makes me content. But most times I know what I can do and I know I can be faster.

The World Champs is slightly unique in that the slopes are all new. There have only been a few races in the past so no one will be able to rely heavily on past experiences. It is more of a level playing field. The terrain should favour the new Chemmy style (I have been fast on flats like I never was before - am sure this is because of learning to skate on a 10 inch blade and the feeling and sensitiveness that taught me!)

Normally I try and treat every race the same. This time I am adopting a new tactic having been at home resting, getting the body in ‘tip top’ shape. I want to peak at the right time, I want to push my body next week to new levels, in essence I want to get back my old confidence and make right turns as strong and fast as my left!

Thank you all for your continued support.

xx Chemmy

P.S I am now on Instagram having finally got with the ages! As followers of the fluffy white stuff my office is mostly always some epic mountain scenery which I will try and share with you. To find me (as with on twitter) search ChemmySki

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thank you!

Every time I get an email to tell me I have received a donation, my heart lifts. Knowing that along with my fabulous sponsors, Monarch, Skiset, Caxton Fx, Mizuno, POC, Atomic and N Peal, the reason that I can ski is because of YOU, and YOUR support helps me fly through the air and push my body towards its limits.

YOU guys are amazing because YOU believe in ME and self belief and confidence for a ski racer are like GOLD DUST so thank you, thank you, thank you.

And without the support of Land Rover, The Third Space, Surrey Sports Park, Game Ready, Compex and many more I wouldn't even be sitting here in Cortina for the penultimate World Cup before this years biggie - the World Champs!

Apologies for my gushing thanks, it's just sometimes (well always!) I feel it needs to be said!

You too can donate and help me on the road to Sochi 2014 at www.chemmyalcott.com/donate.

My (if I wasn't a ski racer on the World Cup tour) World Ski Calendar!

With this calendar, you can ski all year round! Which destination is your favourite?


Chemmy is the ski ambassador for Monarch Airlines and this blog post is also published on blog.monarch.co.uk.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Looking back at 2012: why skiing can be an emotional rollercoaster

When asked for my advice for future wannabe ski racers I always say perseverance – skiing is a roller-coaster of emotions – be prepared to take the highs with the lows.

This is my mantra at the moment.

I have never been more attached to the bottom of an emotional yo-yo string as the last few months. There have been hugely rewarding moments when all the work of the last 2 years seemed to pay off and then days I have been lucky races were cancelled since my leg was so stiff I was hobbling like an old man.

Photo credit: Malcolm Carmichael

Every day I wake up with a comforting ache in my right leg. I know that sounds bizarre describing my metal work with positives but it helps me to remember what I have been through and had to overcome to just be here surrounded by all this white, fluffy snow! It is far too easy to just forget the last two years and be back to being Chemmy the ski racer who is a competitor, a contender with no excuses to not perform at her best. My soul is the same racer but now I just have life experiences to fall back on when the going gets tough. And I can tell you starting at the back of the first series of World Cup racers I have had to rely a lot on my mental strengths. The Gods have not been kind to us. I remember the days when I used to race and wake up and the weather was either consistently sunny, flat light or snowing. Now in the period of just hours we have been exposed to every kind of weather system out there. At Lake Louise some girls had sun, others fog, the latter snow and fog and wind – it is like a Russian roulette – but in that start gate when you hear those last 5 beeps you take what you are dealt with and do your best, knowing that one day opportunity will be yours and you WILL seize it and excel.

I am proud of my season start. I put myself in the most difficult position known to an athlete and succeeded. Success would have been just to finish knowing I had done my best and overcome my gremlins. So coming 25th and scoring world cup points in my very first race post injury on the very hill that threatened to end my career back on the 2nd December 2010 was possibly one of my most rewarding days I have ever had in this sport (obviously becoming the first Brit to win a run in World Cup and my numerous top 10s were great but this result had an even higher meaning for all the effort and belief, not just by me but everyone who helped get me back on skis, that has gone into achieving those very valuable 6 points!)

After I got the ball rolling in Lake Louise I thought ‘Hey this isn’t going to be as tough as I expected – I am already in the points – let’s just build on this every race.’ I forgot how every girl in that start gate is hungry for points – and I was the only one who had missed the last two years and was coming back slightly rusty. World Cup points are the creme-de-la-creme of our sport – they don’t just hand them out willy nilly. You have to work hard for them – the old ‘blood, sweat and tears’ comes to mind. And for me the last few years have been just that. I promised myself I wouldn’t let this sport I love make me sad since I have fought so hard to be back doing it.

But the tears have flowed twice so far.

Once from utter relief after safely completing that first training run in Lake Louise and clearing the jump where I crashed. They were unexpected and tumbled down my cheeks as I sat realising that I had done it – my diary extract says it all:

27th November – First training run Lake Louise

What an insanely MOMENTOUS day! Because I am not a ‘thinker’ I tried to just let it happen – to ignore how mentally tough it was going to be for me to ski my first DH run on the very run that I crashed on 2 years ago. What I achieved (and don’t get me wrong I wasn’t fast – I was in fact very, very slow) only hit me 20 minutes after my run as I sat on the loo and read a text from my good friend Nick Fellows and that is when the waterworks started!

I hope Nick doesn’t mind but it was such a thoughtful text I want to share it “Chemmy… Well-done.. Respect beyond belief… To go back to the nightmare and lay the ghost to rest is an achievement beyond belief.. Walk with your head held high…”

@LarisaYurkiw (one of the few who get what I went through today not only as my teammate but someone who overcame a horrific injury herself) and I just chatted and she said something really touching – some people go their whole lives without pushing themselves into the unknown… Whatever happens now this season, whatever happens from this day forward, I did that today – I pushed myself totally out of my comfort zone (and that is an expression far too widely used but not for me today!) Right now time for the tears of relief to stop and the preparation for tomorrow and a different mindset.

The beautiful setting at Lake Louise – pics I took when I went for a hike to clear my head before the competition

I am so glad I wrote down my feelings that day as I normally only allow myself to write as therapy when I have a bad day. The 27th of November was such a significant victory along my comeback that since then I have often re-read my words so that I don’t lose those precious feelings!

The other time I cried was in St Moritz after the combined when I let fear in and it completely controlled my skiing. They were tears of frustration, the feeling that I had let myself and those who believed in me down. Thankfully it took only an hour of hindsight to realise that the conditions had been tough – very dark and I had not trusted my leg’s ability to ski without the help of my vision. Once I addressed this fear I reasoned with it and know it is something I need to work on. (In fact in the DH in Val D’Isere in the second training run, just one week after my poor performance in St Moritz, with dense cloud cover and no light, I was able to test my acceptance of fear in flat light and ski probably by best run so far finishing just 1.3 seconds behind first place.)

I didn’t expect to come back and win straight away. I knew even top 30 positions would be hugely challenging so I am proud that out of the three races, I have finished two in the points. The other results have been bitterly close just outside that elusive top 30 but what makes me most proud is that with every run I have glimmers of the untapped potential that drove me to come back to the sport I love – statistics have been favourable – I have been the fastest girl through the speed gun, I have won a split and have had numerous sections where I was skiing as quick as the best in the world. The consistency will not be given to me on a plate – I will have to keep working hard for it but now I know it is there and with a little bit of luck from the weather Gods, I will do everything I can to go out there and bring it home!

So that’s what it’s like for me, racing – but is skiing an emotional rollercoaster for you too? Tell me about it!

Chemmy is the ski ambassador for Monarch Airlines and this blog post is also published on blog.monarch.co.uk.