World Cup #8- Sochi da!
From the moment the location for the 2014 Olympics were announced I started dreaming about Sochi, Russia. The Vancouver Winter Olympics fired my desire to not be just a spectator or volunteer at the Olympics, but an actual competitor. Of course, I had childhood dreams about going to the Olympics. I think most athletic people do at some point in their lives. As 2014 approached, I realized this dream could turn into a reality. However, it all came crumbling down early on in the season last year and the end result was no Olympics for me.
This year when I made the World Cup team I learned that Sochi was on the circuit for the 8th and final World Cup race. Finally, my chance to see the Olympic venue and compete at the Sanki Sliding Center had come! However, at that point I still had to make it through two athlete evaluations, and our NSO hadn’t decided whether we would actually participate or not, so I wasn’t holding my breath. As the season progressed and I jumped through the necessary hurdles I realized Sochi was only a race or two away. During the week in Igls we learned, finally and definitively, that team Canada would be competing in Russia. Yes!
It was a great experience. I felt like a rock star. Everything was taken care of by either the FIBT, the Russian Federation or private backers. For example, we flew there on a private charter. Luxury buses were awaiting our arrival to whisk us off to Rosa Khutor, the mountain village where our hotel was situated. The hotel, the Golden Tulip Inn, was modern with well-appointed rooms, great food and reasonable internet access. Each day for training we would shuttle to the track, which was gorgeous as well. The start area is huge and it reminds me of a cathedral. The whole track is covered and has a handy little walkway right beside it. In fact, when the shades or closed apparently the track has a “micro-climate” which can be carefully controlled. The warm up area has a luxurious covered 60m running track, perfect for warming up and training no matter the weather.
The track itself is very unique. It has several uphill sections which make it feel more like a roller coaster ride, with negative and positive G-forces, than any other track. The start is short and quick, which I like, and the track has good length to it. It’s challenging as well. Several same direction turns and high pressure areas require finesse and good track awareness. After a few days of training, however, I realized it would take more than the allotted six official training runs for me to get a really good understanding of my third new track of the season. Given the limitations, I tried to focus on the key areas and rely on good sliding principles to get through the rest.
On race day the conditions were fairly similar to training, and I was ready to give it a go. I was off 8th, which unfortunately wasn’t a great race draw as the ice tends to degrade very quickly after the spritz. I had a decent push, and a clean run, but it wasn’t fast. I wasn’t sure what happened, but it was likely a combination of factors. For the second run I decided not to change much as I couldn’t pin down exactly what to change.
Unfortunately, although my second run was significantly faster, it wasn’t enough to move me up in the standings. I finished a decent 12th, but I had hoped for more. I do think that in the future this is a track that it well suited to me and I could do better. I look forward to this next time I get to slide at this beautiful venue.
Next up, my first World Championship race in Winterberg, Germany!