Lessons from Sochi lifted Ramsay, Oatway to podium in Pyeongchang
Canadian para-alpine skiers won combined 3 medals at last Winter Paralympics
Prior to Sochi, Calgarians Alana Ramsay and Kurt Oatway didn't quite know the beast that awaited them at the Paralympics.
The bigger venues, the deafening sound from a packed grandstand and the media scrums that awaited them post-race were things they don't usually experience on a regular basis.
Neither won medals four years ago, but both attest that seeing the increased fanfare firsthand helped them get over the shock of the Paralympics and land on the podium in Pyeongchang.
"It's bigger than anything we ever do so it was good to experience it just so it's not as big of a [deal]," says Oatway, the reigning gold medallist in the men's sitting super-G.
Creature of habit
The exposure taught Ramsay to be a creature of habit — get into a proper routine so that by the time the Paralympics roll around, it will feel more like second nature.
The 23-year-old doesn't change anything when it comes to her pre-race course inspections and is very diligent so that she doesn't miss a section.
While it sounds repetitive, it keeps Ramsay locked in on the task at hand and it's what's made her an all-around threat on the World Cup circuit.
In the 2015-16 season, Ramsay finished second overall in the super-G and third in the slalom, giant slalom, and overall standings. She followed that up with a four-medal performance at the 2017 para alpine skiing world championships and a pair of bronze medals in Pyeongchang.
"You do everything by your own agenda and everything you're used to," Ramsay said. "That actually helps because you don't stop and think, 'Oh my goodness! I'm actually at the Games. This is the most scariest thing.'"
Watch Ramsay's bronze-medal performance in the super-G:
Having a short memory
But not all things go according to plan.
Disaster struck for Oatway in the men's sitting downhill — an event in which he was favoured to win gold. The 34-year-old made a costly mistake a third of the way down the course and couldn't recover as he finished eighth — nearly 3.5 seconds off the pace.
Fortunately for Oatway, he didn't have too much time to let that poor performance poison him.
The very next day he competed in the sitting super-G and won the gold medal.
"You're gonna be angry, upset, disappointed, and all the gambit of emotions," Oatway said. "You just gotta live in that moment for a little bit, accept it, and move on. You can't change the past. You can only move forward and try to change the future."
Watch Oatway's gold-medal race:
Ramsay won her first Paralympic medal in a similar nature, finishing third in the women's standing super-G a day after finishing a disappointing fourth in the downhill discipline.
"I put my heart and soul into that run," Ramsay said. "To come out the next day with a bronze medal, it was pretty fantastic seeing how fast I can turn disappointment into ambition."
Vancouver Games leaves lasting impact
Their medal aspirations can be traced back to the Games eight years ago in Vancouver.
For Oatway, it was "the straw that broke the camel's back." He was an avid skier growing up, joining the Nancy Greene Ski League — an entry-level race program for young children — when he was just six.
However, he hadn't skied since suffering a spinal cord injury in 2007. Watching the Paralympics helped him rediscover that passion.
"I needed to get out and just start skiing again. I didn't really have any illusions of racing at the time when I started. I just wanted to get back skiing. Period … I did a couple of runs through a course and was like, 'Okay. I could probably race.'"
Oatway describes his return to his first love:
Ramsay remembers watching her idol, Lauren Woolstencroft, win five gold medals in 2010 and getting to meet her post-race.
Seeing the legendary Paralympian perform firsthand gave Ramsay something to strive toward and provided her with the belief she needed to pursue her dreams.
Fast forward to Pyeongchang and things have come full circle. It's now Woolstencroft, in her role with the media, awaiting Ramsay at the finish line following her own medal performance.
"I don't know if I was just amazed or so excited that I got to be interviewed by someone that I've looked up to for years … being talked to by a mentor after you win a medal was surreal," Ramsay said.
Watch Ramsay's post-race interview with Woolstencroft:
Both Ramsay and Oatway are still relatively young in the sport having made their national team debuts only four years ago. Despite a successful Paralympics, they recognize that there's plenty of room to improve and look forward to doing so alongside their teammates.
"It's an individual sport but at the end of the day, I train with these people. I use other teammates to continue to grow," Ramsay said. "It's nice to have someone be like, 'I want to beat you. I'm going to beat your training time.' It gives [you] something to strive for and pushes yourself a little bit harder."