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Kelly Vanderbeek-One year away.

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.

Here I am, one year out from the 2010 Olympics and having just competed in our World Championships. There have certainly been a lot of lessons I’ll be taking with me from the last two weeks’ experiences to better prepare myself for 2010’s big show.

This last week in Val D’Isere has been filled with many demons and with a near comical rollercoaster of emotions. It wasn’t until the second training run in the DH that I truly realized there were some strong emotions that were crippling me out on the hill.

I had a good plan in the start, I felt confident with where I needed to go and what I needed to do. Yet, once on the hill my body went completely rigid. I went into protective mode. Yes, I’m still hurting from my crash in Cortina less than two weeks ago, but it was more than that. I was being crippled with fear, on two levels.

I was scared of crashing again and feeling such pain, and I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to the results I knew I was capable of. Between these two fears, I was a mess and I felt lower than I had in years. I know that even with all my faculties, it would have taken everything I had to perform here in Val D’Isere, and with my two bad shoulders, near complete exhaustion, and lingering sickness, it made my task that much tougher. Still here I was, needing to compete and unwilling to concede defeat.

Due to weather conditions, we only got two training runs (and both I skied like a scared and protective school girl). We then had one day off while the combined racers did their thing, with the training run canceled the following day, and a long day on Sunday as the race was delayed until it was finally canceled.

During this time, I had been hard at work trying to get my brain and body working together again. I made lists of affirmations, reminding myself that I actually love this stuff! I also had a wonderful conversation with my sport psychologist Roger Friesen. Things started to come back together, and I could feel my passion for racing overpowering my fears. John Kucera’s win was also an inspiration and really helped me (and others) remember why we’re here. It was an epic race and one I will never forgot; I’m glad I was there to be a part of it….not to mention getting to sing our national anthem at the top of my lungs was pretty amazing!

Finally, the DH race day arrived. I was ready. I went out of the start and it was me again, I was loving the hill and totally engrossed in racing. Unfortunately, when I reached the forest, it was my first time doing that section with any real speed and I went too direct causing me to almost go out. I fought to stay in the course but I lost tons of time. I crossed the finish line far from the leader, but knowing I’d faced my fears and won. I showed up to race and I raced.

Since my crash in Cortina I’ve been on a whirlwind of emotions but I’m coming back to my own now. I’ve learned a lot by continuing to move forward; by pushing through; by racing. I may have no results to show for these last two weeks, but I have so much more. I know these hard times will make the highs feel so much better and I know the lessons learned will make me stronger – something I’ll need to be come Whistler next February.

On the health side of things, my shoulders are mending. Now that they settled down a bit, we were able to do a proper exam to see the damage. Chris Irving checked them out and found tears in the front of my left shoulder’s capsule and tears in the posterior (and slightly inferior) part of my right shoulder’s capsule. I was pretty emotional after the exam, I have had too much experience with shoulder exams, and it scared me to feel their condition. Especially the left one, it felt loose.

I’m now heading back to Canada for a few days to recover. I’ll be in London visiting Dr. Litchfield to have my shoulders further examined. Likely, this will become a waiting game. If they can stay in with proper rehab and strengthening then that’s it. However; if this is the beginning of more trouble with them popping out, then surgery will be required. I’m hoping it won’t get to that point, and if it does, I hope it can wait until after the Olympics.

It’s been a tough two weeks. I fought and I’m winning the battle.

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