Feb 1st 2017 The season so far... Bronze Medal at the World Championships
We had a tricky return to snow in December after Menna broke four bones in her hand during a Super G training session at the end of October. After a much-needed break over Christmas, we returned to Austria to continue training in preparation for the World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy at the end of the month.
With our expectations for the season ahead high, we launched straight into World Cup racing, with limited time for training to rebuild our confidence and skill level. Not the ideal situation, but we decided to use the races in December and January as training. Psychologically this was not an easy task, with everyone around us focusing on trying to win the races. The aim was ‘progress’ for each run and each race, removing the pressure of the outcome and focusing on improving each turn. This tactic worked well and we returned to Speed racing in Innerkrems, in January. After a great first Downhill (DH) training run, hopes were high that everything was falling back into place. Although we had fun, our performance in DH training run 2 and the race run was not as good. Back to the drawing board to focus on making steady progress, and building up confidence on the speed skis.
The VI squad left Innerkrems for a short training period in the beautiful resort of Steinplatt, where we were treated to our own private training hill and t-bar for one morning to run GS gates. When 40 centimetres of snow fell overnight, we managed to squeeze in a day of powder skiing and we also bumped into the French and German able-bodied World Cup Teams, who were training for the races at Kitzbuehel. With some much-needed training complete, we popped to Kitzbuehel on our way to Tarvisio to watch the infamous Redbull Downhill race – what more could you ask for by way of inspiration to ‘go for it’ at the World Championships!
The pressure was definitely ‘on’ for the championships. Our team-mates Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith (RAF), and Millie Knight and Brett Wild (RN) were skiing well, as were all our competitors. We knew we would need to ski fast to get on the podium, and we were feeling confident after the training session.
We launched ourselves into the speed events, quite literally, as there was a jump in the course. Menna attacked it and landed well, allowing us to finish in a very respectable 3rd place after the first training run. Unfortunately the two visually impaired skiers who ran behind us crashed and they removed the jump from the course. One of those was Kelly G, who injured herself, ruling her and Gary out for the rest of the competition. Millie and Brett had an incredible run in the DH and went onto become the first British World Champions in Alpine Skiing! Something changed overnight in our skiing as a pair, perhaps a subconscious thought relating to Kelly’s crash, we are not sure. We did know that ‘Team Menna and Jen’ couldn’t find their flow. In discussion with our coach and Sport Psychologist, we returned to focusing on making progress on each run and ended the speed racing block with two 4th places and a 5th. Overall, we were happy with the results, but we know we have lots more to give!
The final two races of the Championships were Giant Slalom and Slalom. GS has long been our favourite. We knew that if we were going to pull something out of the bag, it would be in GS. The course and weather were perfect. We set our minds, decided on our strategy and tactics for the race and went for it. The plan worked and we finished with a Bronze medal! This was one of our hardest fought-for medals and one that we are both extremely proud of. We were also really pleased to share the podium with our team-mates Millie and Brett, who won Silver.
“We completely underestimated how long it would take to return to full racing after an injury. It has been a really tough couple of months, and we are overjoyed by our Bronze medal at the World Championships”.
After a close-fought final Slalom race, which saw us just pushed into 4th place, we drove across the Alps to Meribel, France, to attend the Inter-Service Championships. Jen had been selected to race for the Army Team for the fourth time, and was very excited – the ‘Inters’ is her favourite competition week! Despite only getting 4 hours sleep, Jen added a silver medal to her collection for the Super G, although the RAF Ladies put in some excellent performances to take the overall title this year. We then had the opportunity to fore-run a Slalom race. This was great training (We skied better than we have all year..!) and show the military personnel and sponsors what we do. It was also really interesting to compare our raw time with the rest of the competitors. Had we been racing, we would have finished 4th in the competition! :-)
January was a tough month but vital in terms of making us aware of what we need to do to prepare for the Paralympics. We owe a massive 'thank you' to the team around us who have helped us to get going again and supported us through the highs and lows of the past month. In particular to Amanda, Kelley Fay, John, Euan, Catherine, Abi and Scott for everything you do to help us to give our best performances. We couldn't do it without you.
Now it is back to the UK to train in the gym, review our performances over the past few months and prepare for the World Cup Finals in Pyeongchang, South Korea.