January 21, 2009: Disappointment

Sungwoo Resort, Gangwon, Korea – With yesterday’s positive racing, I looked forward to today’s parallel slalom and was happy and excited to race. Although I haven’t trained slalom in weeks I still felt confident since historically I did better in slalom than GS.

The start of the race was once again delayed so I continued to make lap after lap of freeruns. Waiting amongst the chaos at the top of the course makes me too antsy and I figured I should take advantage of the free time I had to continue training and keep my muscles warm. Looking back I might have taken too many runs and tired out my legs.

I came into the start gate as relaxed as possible. The course was extremely challenging, more so than yesterday’s because the snow conditions were just awful, possibly the worst I had seen in that level of racing. The man-made powdery snow had been slipped out giving way to extremely hard concrete-like conditions, leaving the “snow” unpredictable and inconsistent. Even the top riders were having a lot of problems in the course making it a race of survival over time.

I tried to be as relaxed as possible and just focused on looking ahead and attacking the course. I have a bad habit of looking down at the choppy line or directly at the next gate instead of looking 2 or 3 gates ahead. But when I burst out of the starting gate and hit the first patch of concrete-snow, all intended focus went away and instead I was consumed with looking directly at the unmanageable rut under my feet. Every gate was a battle of just staying upright; instead of going with the flow and trying to find a rhythm and ride out the course, I jammed on each turn, felt each bump and held onto each turn too long. No trust or confidence in my equipment or myself. I didn’t believe that my board could hold an edge and so I rode extremely conservative. No aggressive poise at all.

I ended up finishing 48th. Many of the girls blew out of the course and either didn’t finish or were disqualified. Honestly it was one of the most awful races I’ve ever had in my career. I’m most disappointed in the fact that I didn’t have the courage to just go for it. I’d much rather have really gone for it and blown out of the course than ride with so much fear. I lost my focus and confidence. I let the course beat me.

But what I can take away from the day is to never ever let that happen again. There are different types of attitudes to take into the start gate and now I’m sure that that being completely relaxed doesn’t work for me in slalom (it does work for me in GS though). In the past every time I’ve been as aggressive as possible in the start gate of a slalom it’s worked the best for me – I’m able to maintain my focus and not let the condition of the course get the best of me. I also know that I can’t get scared of the course or the conditions of the snow. I have to always be on the attack and trust myself. That’ll come with more slalom training and a new slalom board. My current board is not ideal for those types of conditions, it is too stiff and does not like to turn or hold an edge well in the icy conditions.

So after a few tears and a little bit of wallowing, I’m over feeling negative about that race. It was a great, albeit tough, learning experience. I’m going to have bad days. I have to accept that it’s all part of racing. But now I feel even more motivated to not let that happen again and I’m looking forward to proving to myself at the next race that I am a much better racer than I showed today. So I’m chalking today up to a learning day.

Now I’m off to Quebec for the Nor-Am cups on Jan. 24th & 25th. I need to get my points up to compete at the Cypress World Cup, the Olympic venue outside of Vancouver, in mid-February so there’ll be a bit of pressure to race well. But I’m ready.

On a side note, my camera accidentally fell into the toilet (unfortunately after I had just used it, but it was just a number one) so I may not be able to post pictures until it completely dries out. But I’ll try to find a replacement.

World Championship Parallel Slalom Course

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