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.