Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: For skeleton racer Rahneva, it's all about how you finish

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast chats with skeleton racer Mirela Rahneva, who has become on of the fastest to the finish despite also gradually becoming one of the slower at the start.

Canadian veteran has become a threat with fast finishes despite slower starts

Canada's Mimi Rahneva races down the track during the women's Skeleton World Cup event, in Whistler, B.C., on Thursday November 24, 2022.
Canada's Mirela Rahneva, of Ottawa races down the track during the women's competition at the skeleton World Cup event in Whistler, B.C., on Thursday Nov. 24, 2022. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Mirela Rahneva is having a wild ride this World Cup season.

The Canadian skeleton racer has won, been on a podium, or narrowly missed a podium in nearly every race so far.

What makes her campaign truly special is that this is the Bulgarian-born Canadian athlete's ninth year on the circuit. Gone are the days of blowing away the competition with explosive starting power.

So why are career-best results coming to an perceivably slower athlete? Chalk one up to experience.

It turns out what seems like an eternity, a half-second lead in the first 50 metres, can evaporate over the ensuing minute when it's all about avoiding micro mistakes. Millimetres add up in a 150-kilometre per hour dash to the finish.

Skeleton is a beast of a sport — a five-second detonation from standing start to hurling headfirst downhill. But that hyper-burst start has to immediately give way to calm, cool stillness. Try find a Zen-state when your face is a millimetre away from ice, flashing past you at Ferrari speeds.

Rahneva and Anastasia Bucsis, host of Player's Own Voice podcast, discover they have something in common: they're both in love with their somewhat fringe sports. Bucsis is a two-time Olympian long track speed skater, and they both enjoy the challenge of persuading curious youngsters — and especially young girls — to give their respective sport a try.

As Rahneva says, Canadian kids see what she does and their first reaction is terror. 

Maybe it's a cultural thing. Some nations, like Germany and England for example, get kids on sleds at much younger ages than Canada does — which makes for better driving skills at younger ages. Canada tends to wait a few years, then focus on faster starts for older kids.

Which brings us full circle to Rahneva, bucking those national strategies with her slower-starting ways, making skilled drivers in other nations sit up and take notice.

Go figure.

There is a transcript of this podcast for our hard-of-hearing audience. To listen to Rahneva, Cito Gaston, Robert Parish, Aaron Brown, Kaylyn Kyle, Kurt Browning, Bianca Farella, Summer McIntosh, Beckie Sauerbrunn or any of the guests from earlier seasons, go to CBC Listen or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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