Ending the season with a bang...literally

Date: 15th March 2010

I rocked up to the event in Meiringen hobbling with bandages in my boots, full of anti inflammatories. They moved the course at Meiringen which I was happy about. The course looked good very busy but I knew in the pain I was in, this was going to be difficult for me. I took 4 pain killers and started training. The course was so busy that first run I got a little lost, and missed one section, I could feel the pan in my lower legs. 2nd run was an improvement and 3rd was going even better until I headed into the fastest section fo the course where there was a jump into a long compression with an up jump. As I was heading into the up jump full speed, approaching the take off, suddenly the gate keeper raised a yellow flag, I couldn't do anything! I started to panic, straightened my leg as a natural reaction, knowing dam well there was another competitor lying on the other side off the jump and I had no idea where, this caused me to launch off the jump, mid air I saw Sanna Luedi (SUI) lying in the fence, I knew I wasn't going to hit her, but I was heading straight for the fence lower down, I landed with a fence fast approaching and only had one thought in my head "Broken legs for sure" then a split second later BANG full speed flat ski straight into a fence. Isi the Spanish coach and one of the Canadian coaches came running to help. I was in pain but was ok considering. Now my tib/fib joint was really hurting me, my shins…well I had just gone straight over the top of them into a fence, so they were killing me and somehow I managed to tear/pull my groin quite badly, unsable to lift my leg. How any normal person would say...ok stop now. But no, I got to the top, in a decent amount of pain, to find out that training had been extended by 5 minutes because of my crash..and of course the only person who didn't get another run because of it..WAS ME!! Didn't make a lot of sense. I took 4 more pain killers, (taking the total to 8) and decided I wanted to do my qualification run so as not to finish the season with a full speed crash into the fence to dwell on over summer. Struggling to move at the top, with tears streaming down my face and the people closest to me on the circuit saying..."Sar maybe you should just stop now", I started my qualification run, produced a terrible time, and knew that my next stop was home. Ken was shocked I managed to finish granted my physical condition, I left Meiringen limping, knowing I was already finished mentally and emotionally but now I was finished physically as well. Just to top itoff, I broke my race skis too. Brilliant! A huge thank you to Ken, your help was very much appreciated. I spent the next 24 hours hobbling around, stiff with whip lash trying to book myself back to Australia as soon as possible.

A few minor things I need to achieve in the next 48 hours or so:

1. Getting to France to pick up my car after the back suspension broke off on the highway and we left it near a garage on the side of the road a month and a half earlier.
2. Driving the Vectra 12 hours back to the UK knowing dam well it probably won't make it further than Dijon
3. Changing my flight from Heathrow to Melbourne asap
4. Cancelling my flight to Spain (where the last world cup was)
5. Making it in time to catch my ferry to the UK after missing 2 buses and 2 trains to go and get my car, and what should have taken 4.5 hours taking 12.
6. Leaving the Vectra in Fareham with family and getting to Heathrow with all my luggage then venturing into London to pick up yet another bag of kit I had left there.
7. A short 32 hour journey home London to Melbourne via Honk Kong and Auckland.
Catch up on 3 weeks of university I have missed

A busy time, but I am looking forward to getting home, and spending the next month resting and catching up on University. "On the road again...like a band of gypsies we go down the highway..."

Grindelwald World Cup, Switzerland

11th March 2010

Chio arrived shortly after me into Geneva airport and we got a lift to the Formula 1 hotel with the French team guys for the night..slightly embarrassed that my skis were in a long plastic bag. The next morning we were greeted by Isi and Martin (Spanish coach and tech) who had just done a 20hour drive from Granada and we threw our stuff in the back of the van and jumped right in on top of it...literally! We arrived in Grindelwald Switzerland and shortly after we arrived I was greeted by Ken Chance-Larsen. Ken is the physio who had been sent out from the UK by TASS (but he is Norwegian!). I had told poor Ken that I didn’t have any injuries, but by this stage, my tib/fib joint was killing me from being smashed in Branas and my shins on my right leg were giving me serious grief. I took painkillers and persisted with the training, Ken later bandaging my shin inside my boot as it was swelling right along the inside of the bone. Suspected stress fractures, I was unable to pressure my skis properly, and I knew that the end of my season was drawing near. Sadly the vital turn in the course at Grindelwald is a high speed compression type turn on your right foot with bumps. Not surprisingly this is the area of the course I lost all my speed on in qualification and due to only 31 girls finishing, I made the finals in 30th position...eeeek! This was getting worse and worse. The first day of finals the fog came in and you literally couldn't see anything, they decided after running 7 of the 8 girls heats they would postpone it till the next day and re start the whole race. Fortunately the weather was fantastic on the next day and we pulled a great race off. I knew nothing was going to help my shins now, I just gave the start my all, had a decent one, and then of course got overtaken in the vital turn which I tried to pressure my ski but just got pushed down and overtaken. I followed on down and nearly had a large crash off the last jump, entering the jump still on my edge, I came off, headed backwards in the air, and I was sure I was gone, but somehow landed on both edges (putting further stress on my already sore tib/fib joint near my knee) and somehow managed to hold it crossing the finish line, shaking my hand as if to say 'phew that was bloody close!' The swelling down my shin had now moved even further down extending about 20cm down my shin now. Feeling like a bit of an invillid it was off to Meiringen to give it a shot! See below photo sequence of my close call!

Onward to the next World Cup with my race skis in a plastic bag

Date: 8th March 2010

After spending much of my time at the Olympics filled with disappointment, suddenly it was the closing ceremony and Team GB was off on a BA flight back to London. The next event was in Sweden in Branas, and whilst I felt like I wasn't really there mentally or emotionally, I made my self press on as usual. I flew to Stockholm Arlanda and got a lift with Tuomas from Finland to Branas (About 5 hours) rocking out to his favourite death metal tracks along the way...I was stoked when he pulled out his Roxette cd for a change... I can assure you!! The course in Branas last year was amazing, fast paced, lots of features, big jumps down the last flat, and big double/triple along the last run into the last jump. I had always planned to atleast finish the season with Branas as the course was great. This year it was flat, no features, tiny rollers you could absorb and a total gliding race. In training I managed to get off balance in the air off the last jump, landing on my inside edge and I think hitting my femur straight onto the top of my tib/fib joint. Nothing painkillers couldn't get rid of. So other than starfishing off the first jump, I just wasn't fast which just added to my mental/emotional burden. Chio had an equally disappointing time there in Branas and we both decided maybe the Europa Cups in Spain were looking more appealing than the following world cups in Swizterland. Unfortunately due to bad weather the races in Spain looked like they weren't going to go ahead, so it was a 5 hour death metal filled ride back to Stockholm with Tuomas (greatly appreciated) and onwards to Geneva. I did find it a little strange at Arlanda Stockholm airport (The supporting airport of the Swedish Olympic Team) that when I tried to check in my 20kg ski bag with two pairs of race skis in it, that they refused and said we can not have two pairs off skis in one bag, it is against the airport rules. Now I gotta be honest, I am not convinced that Anja Paerson travelled to the Olympic Games with 20 ski bags for her 20 pairs of skis. But even better, they handed me a plastic bag to put the other pair in. (Not convinced Anja Paerson travelled with her race skis in plastic bags either!!!!) With tears dwelling in my eyes, I asked to speak to a manager and tried to explain to them that I simply could not travel with my world cup race stock competition skis in a plastic bag. After 45 minutes of arguing, a long queue accumulating behind me, and my boarding time approaching, I gave in and yes my world cup skis travelled to Geneva in a Scandinavian airlines plastic bag. What was better was upon arrival in Geneva, bumping into Jeff Sadis the tech for a few girls on the circuit, who had lost all his luggage and was fuming, however, managed to crack a big smile and have a good laugh as I cruised up to him with my skis in a SAS plastic bag over my shoulder. It was then that Jeff came out with one of the finest comments I have ever heard, and it was so accurate that it almost made me cry "It shits me how much of this sport is not to do with what you actually do on the race course" and that is it right there, the story of my skiing career.

"Hello I am Sarah and I am living my dream..."

Date: 1st March 2010

Three words to describe my Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic experience... Amazing, inspiring and disappointing.

On the 23rd February I headed to Cypress Mountain for my Olympic debut. The conditions changed from bright sunshine that we had all week for training, to cloudy with wet snow falls. My training had been going well all week. Along with most of the competitors I sat in the tent at the top of the course watching the live coverage of the first few competitors, if I could go back in time, I would change this... but I can't. I sat watching the first 24 competitors go down the Cypress Mountain Olympic course before deciding to get myself prepared. I started to shake while watching the other competitors and left the tent feeling breathless and stressed. I don't know why this happened, no one had put any pressure on me, and no one had any expectations of me, after all my life long dream was to get to the Olympic Games, I was living my dream, yet I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to perform just ten minutes prior to my qualification run. I don't think I will ever understand what happened that day.

I left the starting gate, missing my start, missing my pole plant, twisting sideways and barely making it over the first "Aztec wu-tang"
feature. Interestingly all the competitors had spent most of their training time just practising the first two features, we had all never skied anything like them, amazingly the Canadians flew over them with no problem every run... amazing what a year of training on them will do. I lost 1.5 seconds from the winner in the first 10metres. On a good day I will be 2.5seconds behind on a full length World Cup course of 1minute8sec in length. The course in Cypress was 1.2km and I had already lost 1.5 seconds in 10metres. If that wasn't the start to a shocker...
I don't know what is. I continued on down the course after a terrible start trying to catch up time. The first few features I skied well, then about a third of the way down off the big Olympic ring jump I landed long, took an indirect line and just lost all my speed heading into the flat section of the course. I unfortunately had lost my speed and couldn't do anything about it. I didn't manage to clear the jumps along the flat (which had not happened on any ofther run!!!), I had an on coming head wind and I hit the back side of the triple and the double, and then landed dead flat on the corner jump, crawling into the two final jumps. I knew I had stuffed the run up, when I saw I was 33rd with one more competitor to go, I felt disappointment, I smiled for the camera tried to appreciate my Olympic experience. But when I saw the final time on the scoreboard, that is when I just fell into a heap. The time was really slow, slower than I could even imagine. I had never been that far out in my life... why did it have to be on the one day I have worked towards for 14 years when the whole world is watching???

I finished the event in 34th position. I was totally disappointed as I had been so competitive at the events coming into the Olympics. I think my result was a representation of what I had endured physically, mentally and emotionally in my journey to the Olympic Games but I guess I had hoped it might all finally fall into place, and instead it was quite the opposite. Everyone keeps trying to remind me I am one of only 35 women in the world who qualified for the Olympic Games for ski cross. I know I travelled a different journey to most, I know how hard I worked to get there, and then I got there and it was satisfying. But for a result that bad to come along and crush that dream which I managed to achieve, it is pretty devastating. I spent a lot of the following days in Vancouver punishing myself over it. It is easy to say snap out of it and appreciate what you have achieved...
but I guess you always want more. I don't think I will ever be satisfied with my Olympic experience, I am better than that, but maybe one day I will be able to appreciate the hard journey in achieving my dream.

After days of devastation, I was pretty pleased to have achieved swapping my GB pins for an official pin from all 17 nations that competed in ladies ski cross. My collection is complete.

The closing ceremony was was a great event. I would describe it as organised chaos, but it was enjoyable. Last night we had a final athletes party in the athletes lounge in the Vancouver village. After punishing myself all week and not hitting the town at all, I decided to give it a go. I thought it wasn't going to happen after enjoying a cup of tea with Chio at mid night. We gave it one last shot and thankfully I felt a change and we danced into the early morning. I managed to swap a number of pieces of clothing that night - a Czech Republic pyjama top, Swiss furry jacket, Swedish T-shirt and a Danish Curling top (I tried my heart out to get the men's Norwegian curling pants with colourful diamonds all over them, but he refused! He said it was because he had to do media stuff upon his return... I wasn't convinced...all in all, my outfit was incomplete). Overall a good night and finally a smile on my face. I have really enoyed the company of my GB Freestyle team mates Sarah Ainsworth (aerials) and Ellie Koyander (moguls). It has been a great experience for the three of us and I look forward to reuniting at the next major freestyle event.

Team GB departs the village today. We will set off for a final team lunch on the water, before heading to Vancouver airport and flying back to Heathrow. It has been fantastic to meet so many athletes from other sports.

I have extended my trip to try and finish the remainder of the ski cross season, I just haven't had a chance to enjoy myself this season and I need to remember why I do this sport, why I love this sport and why I enjoy this sport. I can't say I feel good at the moment, but hopefully after another month of events I will. Then back to University to play catch up and hope to knock a few more subjects off the list. My next goal is to complete my University degree by the end of 2010. An Olympic Games and a degree in one year would be pretty pleasing. I am now in the process of trying to realise my next life goal. I will be in touch soon.