Saturday, March 1, 2014


The Olympics were an experience I will never forget.  There is so much going on beyond your own participation but at the same time it is each individual athletes participation that makes it matter.  I learned so much about myself, about sport, about winning and definitely about defeat during my time in Sochi. 

The Olympics are so much more than the few medals that are handed out.  It is about each athlete putting out their best performance for the world to see...even if their best on that day is a 20th place.  It is the act of competing that makes it so special.  Not just the winning.  In fact, on my way home I wore my olympic garb and was asked several times if I was bringing back a medal.  When I said I hadn't brought one home the people often looked discouraged and turned away.  To me, the act of participating in the Olympics was a big deal!!!  I had a great personal performance....which did not lead me to success but I cannot leave feeling like I didn't give it my absolute all.  There were so many other athletes who had great inspiring performances but didn't land on the top step of the podium.  In many ways its the stories of how people got to the Olympics that was interesting to me.  Each athletes story of success and determination is unique.  

Personally, my olympic experience will make me a stronger person.  I feel my journey to this point has been more defined by what I have overcome than my "incredible" success....and my trip to the Olympics was no different.  Coming back from a concussion...I trained extremely hard prior to the Olympics to get back into shape and to feel comfortable on my skis.  The day of my Olympic race was my first day where I felt super confident on my skis again.  In this way I am so happy with the prep that I was able to do beforehand.  Hitting my head was not ideal, but come race day I felt prepared to have my best performance.  The conditions on race day were challenging.  I felt prepared to meet the challenge and ski my best.  In slalom the margin of error is extremely small.  We get as close to the gate as possible because that is the fastest route down the hill.  Both skis always need to pass around the outside of the gate.  Halfway down the course the tip of my inside ski caught on some  grippy snow and I straddled the gate.  I was disqualified from the race.  At the time it didn't feel fair.  It felt like a cruel joke to make it all the way to the Olympics then to not even get to finish the race.  Some athletes were joking that failure in a cross country race is like dying a slow painful death but in slalom (or skiing in general) its like a bullet to the heart.  Failure happens so quickly it is hard to process.  But process it you must (after a damn good cry)....I am definitely not alone in not finishing the slalom race.  At the end of the race there were 49 finishers and 36 women who were unable to complete both runs.  Many of the ladies who didn't finish were on their way to amazing performances such as my team mate Erin Mielzynski and Austrian Bernadette Schild.  When I arrived back in the Olympic Village it was sobering to realize each sport has their own challenges.  There were many other Canadian competitors that had had their dreams a little dashed in Sochi, but they kept their heads up shrugged it off and moved on.  I did the same.  

Another very cool aspect of the Olympics was the camaraderie and friendships built between different sports as we came together in the athlete lounge to watch our fellow Canadians compete day after day.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Kaillie Humphreys deliver an amazing performance while the men's bobsled team explained terminology and the sport to those of us watching.  We were also lucky enough to be able to watch several other events live including women's snowboard cross, mens super g (where Canadian Jan Hudec was 3rd!!!), mens 4 man bobsled and I was extremely excited to get tickets to watch the mens gold medal hockey game!

I also feel extremely lucky that my family was able to come watch me race.  This journey has been not just my own.  My family has picked me up after my bad crashes and celebrated with me during times of success.  I could not have made it even close to making it to the Olympics without the support of my entire family.  For putting me on skis, encouraging and supporting me to work hard and for believing and allowing me to be the best athlete I can be.  My parents basically allowed me to move out as a teenager to pursue this crazy sport.  I felt their support even through my extreme absense from our family life.  To be able to share this experience with them meant the world to me.  My mom, dad, brother and my boyfriend all came to see me.  After my race they once again helped pick me up.  I could not have been more happy to be with my family after my race.  There is no one better to be with than those whom you love when you feel like the floor has dropped out from beneath you.  Thank you to everyone who helped my brother fundraise to pay for the trip!  I VERY much appreciated having him there!

Below are some photos I took during my experience at the games!

Chilling with the Canadian Womens Olympic Team in the rings!

The Canadian Moose mascot! (Yes, it was that warm!)

The view from the gondola...looking down on the downhill course.  The terrain and size of the mountain reminded me of either Whistler or Kicking Horse Resort. 

They had a ton of different activities you could do in the Olympic Village....I painted this doll!

We found some powder at the top of the mountain!

My boyfriend and I with the Olympic flame in the background.

I found the Canadian Molson fridge in Sochi!

 My team mate Britt and I about to watch the Mens Gold Medal Hockey Game!

Watching the game!

Ski Cross champions Kelsey Serwa & Mariel Thompson (and many other excited Canadian athletes!)

Georgia Simmerling, Kelsey Serwa and I...we were all on the BC Development/ Canadian Devo Team together!  It was fun to be reunited at the games!  We raced together from the time we were 11 to 18 years old!

Mitch, Britt, MP and myself just before walking into the closing ceremonies!

It was an awesome experience-in the true sense of the word- to walk into the closing ceremonies.  Goosebumps, giggles and exclamations of awe from all around about the magnitude of people and space as we entered the Fisht stadium!

A moment of being star struck after talking to the extremely amazing and nice Hayley Wickenheiser!

I would definitely never trade my Olympic experience for anything.  It meant so much to me to be representing our beautiful country.  It gave me such a feeling of pride and appreciation to be competing for Canada.  There were so many amazing athletes from our country and so many interesting people that I was able to meet during my trip.  To young athletes aspiring to be Olympians.  It is so worth the struggles you will face to get here.  It is those exact struggles that will make it so matter your result.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

December and January Madness-Shaken not stirred.

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog.  It was not on purpose!  After Colorado I went home to Burlington and had an excellent visit there.  I then boarded back onto a plane and left for Europe once again.  We did three days of training in Veysonnez, Switzerland on some seriously intense ice!  It was great training and I was really looking forward to our next race in Courchevel, France.  The morning of the race was sunny and beautiful.  I did inspection and felt ready to race.  I decided to do one more run in the warm up courses to be as prepped as possible for the race.  Half way through the run my skis got caught in a rut created by the gate hitting the icy slope.  I didnt even have time to put my hands up and I  smacked down on the ice quickly and hard!  I felt my helmet hit the ice.  My immediate thought was "well Im glad I didn't hit my head any harder because it would be terrible to get a concussion right now".  I was more worried about how sore my thumb was.  After pulling myself together and talking to our physio I skied to the bottom of the hill.  I had about 15 minutes to calm down before my race.  I decided to keep my crash to myself until after the race because I figured making a big deal of it won't help me at all.

I felt race ready when I left the start gate that morning.  I left my crash behind me and went for it.  I made a large mistake before the flats that cost me a lot of time.  I ended up 31st by 0.01 seconds.  So close!  After I got to the bottom I started to feel nauseous and strange.  I headed back to the hotel and rested in the darkness of my room for the rest of the day.  The next day, a day off,  I displayed no concussion symptoms.  The following morning we woke up very early to travel to a race one hour away.  I was not able to sleep that night...maybe totalling about 3 hours.  I felt extremely groggy, nauseous and headachy but I blamed it on my lack of sleep.  After an hour car ride in the dark on winding roads I felt worse.  I tried to shake it off and did the warm up and inspection for the race.  I knew something wasn't right when I couldn't remember the section I had just inspected.   It was really difficult but I decided not to race.  This is when we started to consider that I had a small concussion.  I took the rest of the week off.  On Christmas day I freeskied and I did light training the next two days.  I REALLY wanted to race Lienz.  Though I felt better I was spending an awful lot of time ignoring the fact that I was still feeling a lot of "pressure" in my head and small instant headaches.  I wanted to be better so much that I was ignoring the small signs that I wasn't.  I raced Lienz.  But it was a waste on time.  I felt slow and unable to work my skis.  When I got through the finish line I immediately felt extremely nauseous and got a huge headache on the left side of my head.  This is when I knew I wasn't going to be an "easy ride" with this concussion.  It was 10 days post crash and I wasn't better.  At this time I really took it easy.  I stopped doing everything!  No more light yoga, no more light bikerides, no skiing and lots of physic.  All I could do was knit (a good thing since I have so many toques to make for my fundraiser supporters!)  It was one of the hardest decisions to not race Bormio.  Instead I stood at the finish in the pouring rain cheering on my teammates.  I wanted to be racing.  After Bormio I still wasn't better.  I was having trouble with headaches still and I knew the travel schedule we keep in Europe (we travelled almost every 36 hours while we were there) wasn't helping me at all.  I spent all of my days alone in hotel rooms without access to internet, and thus family and friends back home (as well as entertainment!)  I knew I needed to go home to get better.  I left on the 9th of January and returned to Burlington to rest.

After a week of sleeping, eating and resting I felt much better.  My only issue was small headaches I was still getting.  I went and saw the athletic trainer at UVM who was able to treat me with myofascial release on my neck.  Within a few days my headaches were all gone!  After getting cleared by the Alpine Canada docs, I went to visit my teammate Britt Phelan in Mont Tremblant.  We freeskied all day with her parents, my mom and my boyfriend.  It was a great easy way to get back on skis.  The next week I trained in the gym and got one day of training on snow with the UVM ski team before they headed to their weekend carnival.  It felt amazing to be able to ski, workout and watch entertainment on my computer and tv!

I tried to leave for Europe on Saturday the 25th.  I arrived at the Burlington airport to see that the only flight cancelled on the board was my own.  I was rebooked for the following day.  The next morning I woke up to an email again saying my flight had been cancelled!  I luckily was able to call and get rerouted!  I finally arrived in Tarvisio Italy!  As soon as we arrived my computer died!  Its amazing how annoying it is to not be able to use my computer once again!  In Tarvisio we did three days of training there before heading to Kranska Gora.  It was incredible to get to train!  It felt like it had been forever since Id been able to just ski gates.  I didn't feel particularly fast but at least I was skiing.  At this time we were also told we had made the Olympic team.  I felt humbled and excited.  I am so lucky to have performed at the first race of the season given the injury troubles I have had afterwards.  I qualified under the 3rd criteria of two top 20 results.    I feel humbled because this has been my dream since I was 4 years old.  At this point in my career (and in this sport) I feel it is not attending the Olympics that makes an athlete an "Olympian"...its the journey to this point and the luck and timing of your results that got you here.  There are many other Canadian skiers who may not be going to the Olympics this year but are extremely deserving of the recognition of talent that comes with going to the games.  The only thing that held them back from going was bad timing and injuries.  For this reason I am honoured and humbled to go.

Kranska Gora was a bit of a mess.  It snowed over 2 metres in the three days leading up to the race.  The organizing committee did a great job to get the race off as well as they did.  Because I did not qualify and did not race so many World Cups I lost enough World Cup points to no longer be starting in the 20s and 30s.  I had bib 52.  A real disadvantage with the snow conditions we had.  When I pushed out of the start gate I felt ready to race.  Then my body seemed to stop obeying my signals.  The snow felt better than I had expected but after so long off skis my body was not feeling as "sharp" and I simply didn't have to subtle touch on my skis I needed to be fast.  I felt sluggish and not agile.  I did not make second run.

We are now training in Austria before we head to the Olympic Games on the 14th.  I will be watching the opening ceremonies on tv like everyone else.  I feel very lucky to have this time to get my body and skiing re-tuned!  Each run I take I feel a little better on my skis.  We are also doing a great job of dryland in the afternoons and I can already feel my body responding to the activity.  I cant wait to continue training and getting faster.  I also CAN'T WAIT to represent Canada at the Olympics!  There aren't many things that can compare to the experience of the games and I cant wait to get there!  Thank you to everyone for your support and I will definitely be posting pictures etc soon!