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Alpine Skiing

Kerrin Lee-Gartner - Thursday Feb. 13, 2014 21:30

Olympic downhill: Just imagine

Are you as fearless as a downhiller?

Bode Miller leaves the starting house
U.S. skier Bode Miller leaves the starting house during a training session for the super combined downhill at Sochi (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Let’s try a little imagination game.

Just close your eyes for a moment, and imagine yourself driving a car 100 to 120 kilometres per hour….

Now think about the road you were driving on. It was a nicely paved, double lane freeway on a beautiful sunny day, wasn’t it?

Let’s try it again.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself driving at that same high speed on the same road, but this time it is -10 degrees outside, and the road has a thick layer of snow and ice covering it. Remember to keep your speed up!

Well, that wasn’t quite the same, was it?

Just for fun, let’s do this one more time. This time, when you close your eyes, picture yourself behind the wheel on an icy, winding, narrow, bumpy logging road…. How fast did you get up to? Anywhere close to 100 km/h?

On that winding road, travelling at 60 km/h feels pretty reckless, dangerous and somewhat crazy, doesn’t it?

Well, in a nutshell, racing downhill feels a lot like driving that icy road at 120km/h. It can feel reckless, dangerous and crazy, yet somehow it also feels exhilarating, thrilling and powerful.

The fear can be daunting and the anxiety overwhelming. Doubt is paralyzing and indecision, crippling. Yet when a downhiller kicks out of the start gate, facing an icy, turny, bumpy course, the challenge is liberating.

Need for speed

It’s true that a downhiller’s instinct to go fast may be natural, but developing a world class speed racer takes time.

Ongoing technical work is to be expected in all sports, but all racers spend a great deal of time on the other elements of high performance. Tactics have to be developed and minds need to be nurtured. To handle the speeds and danger of racing downhill, mental fortitude is a must.

The two Olympic downhill courses for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have been designed to test the ability and mettle of every racer.

The tracks are very much like the icy, bumpy and winding logging road, but with a few extra jumps and dark shadows. The technical skill required to handle the rolling terrain and icy turns is clear, but the mental character of the athletes will be tested even more.

The ability to block out all distractions and doubt is a must. There is absolutely no room for fear of failure. Belief is mandatory and trust, essential.

Olympic dreams are inspired by little treasured moments of excellence. Belief in the dream comes from hard work … and a little imagination!

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