Friends make Sochi bid even better
Despite the fact that I was in bed by 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, I don’t think 2013 could have ended in a more spectacular fashion for me: I qualified for my first Olympics! The trials races -- I competed, and qualified, in three: the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters -- took place between Dec. 28th and the 31st, so racing definitely capped the year.
Punching my ticket to Sochi obviously gave me plenty to be excited about, but my first Olympic trials experience was special for so many other reasons, too. For one, my hometown friend Joey Mantia made the team in the 1,000 meters. I’ve known Joey since we were 8 and 9 years old respectively, when we were both inline skaters in Ocala, Fla. Even better, our coach from back then, Renee Hildebrand, who molded us into who we are as athletes today, was able to come and watch. She’d actually never seen me skate live on ice, and the last time she was in Salt Lake City was when we came out in 2002 to watch the Olympic Games together. At the time we were dreaming about me racing in the Olympics some day, and here we are!
Throughout the process I’ve gotten tons of inspiration -- and advice -- from other athletes who have gone to the Olympics. After the trials my family, Joey Mantia’s family, Coach Renee and 2006 gold medalist Joey Cheek all went out to dinner. I definitely took the opportunity to pick Joey Cheek’s brain about the Olympic experience. His advice was to just go into the race like it’s any other race. Stay focused and think about the two or three things you think about every time you step on the ice, he told me. Nothing more, nothing less.
For me, I always think about keeping my upper body relaxed, my hips level and my right side down on the turn. If I work on nailing those three things at every practice, I hope that by the time I get into a race situation I can stay completely focused on the task at hand and the rest will happen naturally.
The other thing that is so fun about making the Olympics (as if it needs to be any better) is that I qualified with my three roommates, Heather Richardson, Sugar Todd and Mitch Whitmore. We all made it the first day in the 500 meters. It can be a pretty cutthroat atmosphere at the trials, but it’s nice to be able to go home and enjoy each other’s happiness. We Tivo’ed the races so we could run them back and enjoy watching them again from the comfort of our couch.
The four of us have grown really close training and living together. Let’s just say we girls love to watch trashy reality TV and have convinced Mitch to join us for more episodes than he’d probably care to admit. And he’s gotten me to watch more “Star Wars” movies than I ever would have on my own! Anyway, I can’t wait for Feb. 7 when we all get to walk in the opening ceremonies together.
After qualifying, it was nice to get a week of recovery so I could sit back, relax, and watch the short track trials take place. It was cool to watch some of my really good friends from inline skating make the team -- two out of three girls that made it and four out of five guys who qualified were inline skaters originally, so it was awesome to watch their dreams come true, too.
After the down week, though, I’m back at it with one more hard training cycle before we head to Italy for a hard 10-day training camp before Sochi. Did I mention I’m sitting here and haven’t even started doing laundry and packing for the eight-week trip ahead of me? Better get crackin’!