I've made the Olympic team, yay! After a 10-month selection process of three races in three different countries, I can finally zero in my focus on the Olympic Games.
How did this happen?
After making the U.S. National Whitewater Slalom Team for the fourth time in April 2011, I earned a place at the 2011 World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia. This race served as a qualification race where all of the countries competing in slalom vied for one of the country berths at the 2012 London Olympics. Although a two-second pole touch penalty prevented me from continuing to the semifinal, I managed to secure a space at the Games for the U.S. Women's team. That fall I returned to North Carolina to continue my studies at Davidson College, a liberal arts college wonderful for both my education and training.
Fast forward to April 2012, Charlotte, North Carolina hosts U.S. Olympic Trials. I am more familiar with this Charlotte course since starting college in fall 2010. However, I took a more aggressive approach to this race than was necessary. Although I was faster than my main competitor on two out of the three days of competition, I lacked the consistency that I needed to make myself number one. I took second, but fortunately this result was good enough to get me on the U.S. National team.
As a National Team member I earned a chance to race our third qualification race in Cardiff, Wales. Our trip to the U.K. this past month is my favorite slalom training trip of all-time. We enjoyed making friends with the Welsh team, seeing the sights and training hard on both the London Olympic course and the Cardiff courses. The qualification race, World Cup No. 1 came at the end of my trip. My main competitor and I were tied going into this race. But because I had
qualified back in Bratislava, I had an edge. I also had an advantage in that I was the last U.S. athlete to start the course in Cardiff, so I knew the other women's results before I completed my run. My first run had one costly mistake on it, so I would need to rely on my second run for Olympic qualification. As I sat in the start pool I heard that my competitor was on the verge of being able to overtake me for the Olympics. I had to work hard enough to edge her out, but not so hard that I risked making a mistake and letting her slip into favor. At the end of the run I had done it. The race was by no means my best result, but I had to walk away happy with my ticket to London in pocket.
So what's next?
I will be at home in Darnestown, Maryland for the next two weeks doing some conditioning and visiting family and friends before I return to London for a week of training at the Olympic venue -- Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.
What will my training look like over the next few weeks? I'll rest up and enjoy some recreational paddling until the end of this week and then begin a high intensity block in the beginning of next week. The high intensity block will include three to four workouts per day, two in the boat paddling hard over about 30-second intervals, and up to two cross training workouts. My cross training activities include weight lifting, running, and playing field hockey. Once the four-day intense block is over, I will shift gears into a more technical focus. Each whitewater course in the world is unique, so it is important for paddlers to learn how all of the features work.
This knowledge then assists athletes when they see the competition course and plan how they would ideally pass through the gates.
As each day passes my excitement for the games grows. I have one race between now and the Olympics, the U23 World Championships in Wausau, Wisconsin. I look forward to writing more and sharing this incredible experience as it unfolds.