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Kelly Vanderbeek-Craziest. Week. Ever.

Kelly Vanderbeek is a downhill skier. With three world cup podiums and a world ranking of 5th in Downhill, she's looking forward to Vancouver 2010.

Thinking about how to write this blog, I didn't know where to begin. But here goes, a summary of one crazy week, the last two days being the most exciting.

We were in Cortina, Italy getting ready for a set of downhill training runs that were supposed to start on Tuesday. After a disappointing race in Altenmarkt I was ready to get at it again, with less clutter in my mind and renewed passion in my heart.

David, my fiancee, also joined me in Cortina on Monday, a very welcomed roommate. I always feel at home when I'm with him. He makes the time on the road much more pleasant.

But plans changed as the snow started to fall — over two metres by the time it was done. After a bunch of cancellations we ended up with just one training run on Friday, a downhill race on Saturday, a giant slalom on Sunday and a super-G on Monday (the second scheduled downhill was lost on account of the weather).

In the training session I had a solid, normal run and finished third. Going into the race I had a clear focus — just ski. I had another good run but was a bit disappointed to see that I finished ninth.

Silly mistake

Later, though, I found out that I'd accidentally kicked the wand before leaving the starting gate. We were able to time this, and by our calculations I lost between 0.30 and 0.45 of a second. So without this mistake I would have finished between fourth and second.

The worst part is, my start is usually my best asset. I think this was the first time in my career I'd kicked the wand, but I figured out why I did it and will learn from it. Still, it really bothered me that I made such a silly mistake.

Also, throughout the week the whole team was sick. Half with head and chest colds, the other half with a gastro bug that took people out for two days. In some ways I was lucky to have the head/chest cold because it didn't put me down. But that would happen so enough.

Horrific pain

We were doing some super-G training at a nearby hill on Sunday, planning for an easy session because of the soft snow, when on my final run I crashed. Hard.

It happened so quickly that it's hard to say what happened first — maybe I hit a rut and my ski popped off — but what I do know is that I fell just before heading into a compression and I went down so fast I was unable to brace myself. My face went right into the snow and both my arms were above my head. Both of my shoulders popped out, and the pain was horrific.

The rest of my day was filled with icing and therapy on all the bits that hurt. In the end I had two bad shoulders, a scraped-up face, skier's thumb on my right hand, a pulled adductor, and the next morning I woke up to realize I also suffered some whiplash. Oh yeah, and I was still sick as a dog and coughing up a lung.

But still, I had hope that I could race. My legs (for skiing movements) and core were fine.

Monday morning started at 6 a.m. and David was with me every step of the way. He did everything for me that would have caused pain, other than skiing. My goal was to see if I could get my brain and body to put a run together. There was no pressure from the coaches — if anything it was the opposite. They said they'd support me in whatever I chose to do.

Can't believe I raced

Once in inspection, I knew I wanted to run. The track was beautiful and the day was picturesque. Although I drew a later number (27) than I would have liked, everything else made me want to race. After David helped me get my gear on, I went to the start. I knew I had a run in me and I was totally committed to it. I saw it as a challenge and a mental exercise, but I was almost laughing in the start hut because I couldn't believe I was even there.

And so I raced. I had, for me, a pretty pathetic start but a solid run. I was a bit round in one section that I was a little nervous about, and more tense than I'd usually be, but still I finished 20th. In the finish area I just stood there, bent over, waiting for the pain to subside and my lungs to open up again.

Britt Janyk, who had a good day finishing 12th, helped me take my boots off and get me moving again. I had my bib cut off because my shoulders were too sore to raise. But I did it, and I did it as well as I think I possibly could have. Even now, I can't believe I raced.

On Tuesday evening Dr. Litchfield, who surgically fixed my right shoulder six years ago, was around to check out my latest injuries. I'll need some X-rays when I get back to Canada, but for now it's just rest. I'll be taking the next few days off. Completely off.

Let's hope next week isn't quite so eventful.

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