The beginning of 2020 kicked off with the final three North American Cup races. The first day was scheduled to host races number six and seven in two single heat races while day two would be the standard one race with two heats. This was my first time competing in a single-heat race much less a double single-heat race. Talk about pressure. Something I struggle with in racing is consistency, but in this scenario, it’s absolutely necessary!
However, three days before the actual races were official training. Official training essentially is when all competitors can take a maximum of two runs down the track per day. It is not mandatory to take all OT runs but at least one of them has to successfully cross the line.
On the first day of OT, I crashed out of curve 10, Shady II. By crash, I mean rolled up off the left wall, got flattened in the straightaway and then lost my sled. I walked away from that crash with some bruised hips and a wounded ego, but I deserved it. Whenever my hubris flares up, I usually get a pretty sizeable reminder to chill out. Needless to say, I scratched my second run of the day because I needed to check my sled for any damage.
Going into OT2, I felt some apprehension. I checked my ego at the line and went down for my runs. I crossed the lines per my usual driving and steadily began building my confidence back up. The remainder of the training was finding my comfort at the ramp again and building speed in the right places. Over the past month or so, I haven’t quite been feeling myself. I haven’t felt the usual “pop” in my legs or the power off the block, so that was something I was struggling to regain. But I had my sled set up, my runners sanded and I was ready to go.
Race day was full of excitement. Athletes are running around, doing drills, doing last-minute touch-ups to their sleds before parc ferme closes and getting in the right headspace to compete. At 8:45 am the forerunners were getting on the line to test the grooves and the track conditions. Women would start promptly at 9 am.
I was competitor number four, an excellent draw. I had my routine set and I was in the zone. What I didn’t take into consideration was the change in ice conditions, the ice was faster than it had been during training. So the ride down was not smooth. I had a wide line out of curve 10 and a huge flop out of curve 12 where I pretty much landed on my side and scorpioned. At the end of that race, I managed to snag a sixth-place finish. Not my best work, but after taking a mental note on the conditions, I focused on the next race.
I had the same draw, I would be the fourth competitor to go down the track. I re-warmed up and prepared for what was to come. I did review some feedback about my peculiar start- in the previous race, I loaded my sled prematurely, and had a visibly slower start. So this run, I would make it a point to run further down the ramp before I committed to loading onto my sled.
I still struggled in a few areas, but I was carrying more speed. My run was anything but pretty, and with more TVs at the top of the track, everyone saw it. However, my downtime was a vast improvement from race six by three tenths. Fast enough to finish first and earn my first gold.
The next day is a normal two heat race. I would be number eight off the top of the hill. My first run down I struggled in the usual areas, I came out wide hitting the left wall out of 10, didn’t use 11 so naturally, I was late into curve 12 where I flew out and skidded into 13. My downtime had me ranked third going into the second heat. I consulted my coach about how I should approach the second heat. Having noted I had made an adjustment with my setup from the previous day, I was trying to play it safe. He advised me to go back to how I had my sled set up for the other two races seeing as I did pretty well, so I did.
I approached the second heat just like any other run. I warmed up, did some mind runs and said a prayer asking for peace and calm. There was such a relief in knowing that this was it, the final run that would solidify my competitive season. Understanding, I had put in the work and laid it all out. So I could I trust my training, my coaching and my dream. I went down and clocked the fastest time of the heat, second-fastest time of the day (for women), to secure my second gold medal of the season and my career.
The awards ceremony was so surreal. For the first time in my life, I stood on the podium surrounded by a talented field of athletes as we all watched the American flag was hoisted to the top of the flag pole, front and center as the United States National Anthem played. Twice! [wooden medals]The cherry on top, also unexpected, I finished ranked third overall on the North Ameican Cup circuit [a glass trophy]
It was such a rush of emotions. This was my third year competing for the US as a slider. My very much humble beginnings were anything but hopeful- there was so much doubt about if things would “click” for me or if I would “get it”. The levels of frustration of seeing others excel in understanding and executing concepts whilst I struggled making rookie mistakes, were so rampant. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m so proud of the resilience of my teammates who have progressed as a unit and did well overall. I am forever grateful to the support system I have across the country that has been cheering me on since the beginning. I’m just getting started; I’m excited to see where this road will take me, but for now, I’m back on the ice and getting some quality training in!
**If you’d like to follow my skeleton journey, please check out my athlete website Down with DM. You’ll find some interesting stats, insightful videos and learn more about the sport. If you would like to support my journey there are links to some cool apparel designs that you can purchase, or simply donate through your preferred platform.