Mellisa Hollingsworth - Monday Dec. 16, 2013 12:55

Mellisa Hollingsworth says if it's not broken, don't fix it

After a disappointing performance, she's back on her old sled

Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth raced on her old sled in the women's skeleton World Cup event on Dec. 13, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (Mike Groll/Associated Press)

Let’s say that the beginning of this season has been characterized by rebounding.

First, my unfortunate performance at the Canadian test events, which caused an unexpected detour into the Intercontinental Cup.

Then the slap I got in Igls, Austria, definitely brought about some discouragement. Many people thought that it was going to be easy for me, that I just had to go there and win. I didn’t see it that way, because there were some very talented women in Austria.

But between winning and finishing ninth and sixth there’s a big gap, and I was not expecting that.
So I started off with a great amount of disappointment, and my self-confidence took a blow.

On the flight back to Montreal, I felt so depressed because of my failures. Eventually, I realized that maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I started putting things in perspective and reflecting on the silver-lining of it all. After this, I told myself, it would be best to go back to basics.

And the basics, for me, is my old sled, the one that I’ve been using since 2005. I feel so good on it, I become one with it. And after two days, it worked. I felt I was improving after each run and I found my benchmarks again.

Sometimes, when you win, things seem easy. People ask you: “How do you do it?” and you can’t explain it. Everything rolls in the right way. It is THE optimal point. And as an athlete, it’s what you are looking for all the time.

It’s not something that is easy to learn or to teach to someone else. You appreciate these moments. And it seems to me that the latest races I did in Lake Placid are a step in the right direction.

On my new sled, I had the impression of sliding on a piece of steel. The descent was never graceful. I was constantly correcting instead of feeling my usual sensations in the curves. I had to be extremely precise when exiting a curve in order to properly start the next one. 

Plus, when I direct it, I can’t move much. I like to follow its movements with my body, and I can do that on my old sled. I also like its rhythm better.

Why fix what’s not broken?

Some women in the team had changed sleds last year and it brought them more success (for instance, Sarah Reid). So, I told myself it was better to try that because you never know. I persevered for a good while, but I had to admit that there were more problems with the new sled. 

I thought that with my experience I would adapt better to the new technology. I thought it would allow me to go faster. The most difficult thing has not been learning the new technology or adapting to a new piece of equipment, but the change in the way I direct my sled.

Or maybe I’m too old to change my habits. At least I tried, though.

My coaches supported my decision. Last year, I wasn’t so competitive because of to my starts. This year, there’s a clear improvement. So I hope that with this change I will get my competitive edge back.
In any case, the two last days are proving me right. I kept my old sled and I learned my lesson: don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.

After all, I have enough experience to know that I can trust what I do.

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