Vancouver Paralympics part III – The Best Ever

The next day was the last day without a race, Saturday would be the first of the last two days of racing and of the 2010 Paralympics.  The training for the day was an easy hour, with a focus on three things; one, to recover from yesterday’s race.  Second, to learn and study the course that was to be my course for tomorrow’s relay.  Lastly to practice the 180° corner that would be used in the Sprint race on Sunday.  For me to relax the best medicine is to have some fun, so that is what I did that morning.  Tried a few tricks, but of course making sure I didn’t get hurt.

The final stretch was upon us.  We had two races in two days and at the end of that these Games would come to a close.  For the first time I can remember the Canadian Men would field a relay team.  Because of the way a Men’s relay works, our lead was Sebastien Fortier (a new sit-skier from Quebec, and my roommate), Tyler Mosher (a LW3 from right here in Whistler) and I was the anchor.  The relay is the only race where we have a true Mass start.  When the gun went off all eight sit-skiers took off.  This is something to watch, it is the only chance the spectators get to see the differences between the classes of sit-skiers.  I started in eighth position almost two minutes back from seventh place.  I wasn’t even thinking of catching the guy ahead or realized how far he was ahead.   As I started my leg, my goal was to get the fastest time of my leg.   I got right into it and was really hammering out of the stadium.  I almost reached the top of the first climb and saw the leaders going back down the hill into the stadium finishing their first lap.  Sure I would have loved to be right there fighting for the medals, but I was focused on what I wanted to do. I was skiing really well.  I was on fire.  I skied smooth and relaxed and at the same time I was powerful.  I felt agile and controlled even though I was taking the corners hard and faster then I had ever done.  I skied into the stadium, and saw the seventh place skier still quite a bit ahead, this is where I started thinking I could close the gap and take in a spot.  I was dead last, there was really no reason to cheer but as I skied around the corner and right in front of the stands, an incredible roar began.  This pushed me even faster.  I climb that first hill as hard as I could muster.  At the bottom a coach yelled I was 45 seconds back, after pushing over that hill and beginning the next climb, the next coach yelled I was only 30 seconds back.  I had him in my sights and I was hungry!  The next climb was where I made my move.  I was right on his tail at the top of the second last climb.  I got into the lowest tuck I could and caught right up to him, passed and jump right in front of him so that I got the line I wanted in the upcoming S-turn. I had never gone into this corner has fast as I did that time.  Came out of the corner hard and was right into putting some more ground between me and the now last place.  He tried to come back charging hard but had nothing left.  Everything I had left I used to climb the remaining hill and it was into the stadium.  The crowd again brought me home in an incredible fashion.   As I crossed the line, I knew that was my best race.  I was ecstatic, I was so proud of that race and I even got to move the team up a spot.  I later learned it was the best ever finish for a Canadian Men’s relay team.   The only downside of putting everything out on the line was that I was now one hurting puppy.  I did a ten minute cool down on my skis, and then quickly hopped onto a bus to head back to the Athlete’s Village.  Once I was back in the village I got into the Hot/Cold tubs right away.  Two minutes in the cold tub (the water was about 6°c) followed by a minute in the hot tub (the water was about 104°F).  This cycle was repeated another three times.  The cold water is a shock to the system, but it works because afterwards I felt pretty good.  A short but effective massage that evening and I was ready to go tomorrow.

The final day of competition was to be the cross country Sprint, which was also classic this year.  I knew it was going to be a difficult day.  The first challenge was to qualify.  My category had 33 athletes on the list to start that morning with only the top-8 moving on to the semis.  I would start second, which is a good and bad thing.  Good, because the race plan was simple; go as hard as I could, balls to the wall, and stay upright and set the time to beat.  The not so good thing was that the next few guys behind me were red group skiers and my time would be knocked down quickly.  But that is something I can’t control, all I had to do was focus on going as hard as I could up the two climbs and along the flatter sections near the end of the course.  And that was what I did.  I was extremely pleased with that race.  I did everything I could it was now up to the rest of the field to determine where I finished.  I set the time to beat by over 20 seconds when I crossed the finish line.  I only held the lead until the next skier came in.  This repeated several times, I was now in eighth (the bubble spot as we call it).  If there was a chance that I qualified, I had to be ready (I was holding onto eighth spot for quite a while now).  I went to cool down and prepare for the next round of Sprinting.  When I came back though, it wasn’t to be.  One of the last skiers to go had slipped into the top-8 and pushed me into ninth.  I was the first not to qualify.  Even though I had not moved on I was so happy with that race.  I had finally put together two great races, but of course in the last two days here in the Callaghan Valley (and hadn’t broken a pole in the last two races either).

My Paralympics were over, wait let me rephrase that, my 2010 Paralympics were over.   There still remained a few things to be done before everything could come to a close; my skis and poles had to be packed up, the wax cabins had to be cleaned up, all the gear had to be organized into where it was heading, I had to get cleaned up and dressed for the Closing Ceremony and of course food had to be eaten.  We did take a pause during our clean up to open a bottle of champagne and had a toast to a very successful Paralympics.  I got back to the Athlete’s Village with enough time to change, shower and eat an eight minute “lunch” before I had to board the bus to go to the Closing Ceremony.

The Closing Ceremony was awesome.  Beside the downpour while all the athletes were waiting to parade in, everything went smooth and it was an enjoyable experience.  I must say that the sand artist during the Sochi 2014 presentation was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  As I watched the Paralympic flame fade out there was a sense of closure on these Games.  And then it was all over.

The 2010 Paralympics have been an incredible ten days (“the best ever” according to Sir Philip Craven, president of the IPC).  There are no words that can completely describe everything I experienced there.  The stories, the triumphs, the crashes and heartbreaks and the broken poles these are all part of the Games.  For me now, I will analyze all aspects of my performances and experiences and figure out what worked and what didn’t.  I will begin to plan out the next four years.  What will be my goals, what do I need to work towards and hundreds of other things need to be either answered or planned out over the next little while, as I begin my journey to Sochi 2014.

I would like to take a moment to THANK everyone that supported me over the past few years.  I could not be where I am right now without the support I received from each and every one of you.

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