COMPETING IN THE SPOTLIGHT

 

On a Tuesday morning in December, I came to the Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta via horse-drawn carriage. Once there, I received news that brought a tear of joy to my eye. I was officially named to the 2014 Olympic Luge team. I had the jacket and I was heading to Sochi.

It’s a strange moment when a dream becomes a reality. But that dream didn’t come easily. My journey to the Olympics has been the single most challenging, and rewarding, thing I have done so far. I raced in 6 World Cup races prior to the Olympics starting in Norway, Germany, Whistler, Park City, Austria, and Latvia. Narrowly missing the qualification of 3 of the races, I qualified for 3 of them and secured my Sochi position when I finished 32nd overall.  On the 20th of January, I packed my bags and headed to Russia.

The team had a weeklong preparatory phase in Germany where we worked out and did just about anything other than luge. It was our time to decompress before the circus that was going to come. Arriving in Russia, we dealt with the typical difficulties of getting our luggage where it needed to be. We spent the first two nights in the costal village just to get acclimated to the whole intensity of it all. We arrived at night and woke up to find palm trees and the black sea outside our window. That was the moment when it all sunk in and the gravity of the situation became real to me. I was at the Olympics and the whole world was watching. I got the gear and I wore it proudly. We made our way to the mountains and the beauty of it took me back. The snowcapped mountains that surrounded the villages made a perfect backdrop.

I was at the Olympics and the whole world was watching.

Training started a week before the actual competition and the pressure was on. Everyone was on the team was on edge and there was a newfound seriousness in the training environment.  It was stressful and so indescribably exciting at the same time. It seemed like the whole world was there. On February 8th, the big day rolled around and the opening ceremonies were underway. I woke up in the morning and felt ready to race. The day I had been dreaming about was finally here. I came to the race with a clear head and an open heart. I was in the perfect zone between activated and relaxed. I remember having a moment of clarity while warming up that made me realize how much I’ve changed along this journey. I was filled with nostalgia and confidence. My first run was the best run I had in Sochi. I floated down the track with decent lines and good position despite the fact my racing booty broke going down the track. Although I had been struggling with the start all week, I had done some of my best starts during the race. I was off coarse in the bottom of the track on my second and ended up scrubbing a few walls near the end of the track. I was frustrated. I ended the first day on a low note.  I came back on the second day with absolutely no pressure and because of that I had two of my best runs. I was calm and I actually took the time to enjoy sliding for once. It was a rare moment. I finished 27th after all four runs and I can look back on that now and feel proud of it.

There was something in the air there. It was hard to pinpoint, but it was a feeling (that I suspect everyone there felt) of magic. It could have been from being around all the other nations or maybe it was the feeling of closeness I felt with the Canadian team. I can however, with all confidence, say that it was the most influential time of my young life. It made me look at myself and, more importantly, my team with new eyes. There was this infectious positivity all throughout the atmosphere in Russia and it is nearly impossible to avoid being a part of it. I know this energy is what the Olympics is meant for, but I am happy to say this feeling is still a part of me long after that flame went out. If I had to put that feeling into words, I'd describe it as limitless. I felt like I can actually dream about anything and that those dreams are actually achievable. I feel like I can make a plan and actually execute it. I may be a fresh addition to this tradition, but I immediately felt connected with my Canadian team counterparts. Without a doubt, my time there was magic and I couldn't feel more optimistic about my path from here.