Manon Gilbert - Sunday Feb. 10, 2013 07:00 ET

Sarah Reid, skeleton racer, grows up in time for Sochi

Calgarian hits the world stage in time for Winter Olympics

Sarah Reid

Canada's Sarah Reid took an unusual path en route to becoming a skeleton athlete. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Sarah Reid’s journey is quite unconventional for a skeleton athlete.

The majority of athletes who choose to slide down a track head first are generally from volleyball, basketball or track and field backgrounds. But Reid started her career with ballet slippers on

“I practised ballet for almost 10 years. I loved it, but I needed to try something else and I chose skeleton," said Reid, 26. "They are disciplines at the opposite end of the spectrum, but the transition happened naturally."

Bobsled first piqued her curiosity. But in 2002, at 15, she was too young. Plus, given that she was 5 feet 2 inches, she lacked the ideal body frame for a bobsledder. Hence the suggestion from the recruitment camp’s coaches to give skeleton a try.

It was a choice that she never regretted. From a purely physical point of view, her ballerina skills haven't been useful. But dance did give her a solid mental strength that helped Reid go through the most difficult years.

“I learned what commitment, work, discipline, getting over yourself all meant at a very young age. These tools helped me in skeleton.”

Crowned junior world champion in 2008, it took Reid some time to reach the same level of success within the senior group. For a long time, she was stuck at 18th, 19th, 20th place. Sometimes she felt discouraged, but never enough to think about quitting, even though she didn’t get selected for the Olympic Games in Vancouver.

“At the end of each season, I knew that I was better than when I started. Even though I didn’t get on the podium, I knew that I could get there eventually,” said Reid, who is from Calgary. "I acquired the tools that took me where I wanted to go.”

Keep the wins coming

In November 2012, her determination paid off. With a new sled, which was easier to manoeuvre and for which she created the motif and chose the colours, Reid not only won her first podium, but also her first victory at the World Cup season opening event in Lake Placid.

By now more confident and relaxed, Reid kept her momentum throughout the season. She went on to win two silver and a bronze to conclude the World Cup season with a fifth-place finish overall. The icing on the cake was winning bronze at the world championships.

“That took away some pressure and made me realize what I’m capable of. My goal has always been to win a medal, to win a World Cup," she said. "Reaching my goal was encouraging and reassuring.”

Reid is aiming to keep her momentum during this important Olympic year. During the summer, she focused on her pushing technique in order to increase her departing speed.

Reid says that while she thinks she didn’t have the necessary maturity to take part in the Olympics in 2010, this time is different.

“It was the best possible scenario for me. I was able to see the Games and live those without the pressure of participating ... here at home” Reid said. “I now approach these Sochi Games with more concentration and a greater goal.”

Reid will begin her journey towards an Olympic podium finish starting on Wednesday, Feb. 12 when the first two of the four runs begin in Sochi.

This story has been translated from French and edited by CBC Sports.

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