Silver Linings (4/23/13)

BY AMY PURDY

 
Me and my teammates at the Sochi test event
My IPC World Cup hardware!
Another silver medal performance at the Canada World Cup

I cannot believe it is already over – what an amazing winter of growth and experience it was! There was very little time to lose focus this winter from the No. 1 priority, which was to make the U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding National Team. This year we had to rank high in the U.S. team qualifiers and if we were invited then we also needed to compete on the World Cup circuit in order to be considered. The team won’t be officially announced until July 1, 2013. Below are my results from my races this season, with a few important lessons learned!

Tahoe Qualifier – Our first qualifier of the season was held at Sierra at Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, Calif.! This was our first opportunity to see the entire U.S. field of competitors as well as the international field, since it doubled as a Nor Am. I finally got my legs dialed just the day before the race and ended up riding strong, coming in second and winning silver! I still am a ways off of my friend, single leg amputee Bibian Mentel, who won gold for the Netherlands, but either way I’m going to make sure that solid riding for me is a trend for the rest of the season!

Copper Qualifier – The Copper Mountain qualifier was an intense race for me. After losing my first timed run due to a meeting with the B netting and a dislocated rib, I jumped in for my second and third timed runs. I decided to play on the safe side and wound up in a solid lead against the rest of the field and ended up landing another silver medal, which placed me second in the world and first in the U.S. I knew I could have raced harder and faster but what I learned from this race was that sometimes it’s not just you against yourself, it’s you against the other competitors. I landed that silver not by trying to race faster, but by racing safer and smarter. I am learning that is how you have to play your cards sometimes.

Sochi Test – The Sochi test event in Russia was an amazing experience! I was honored to be the only U.S. female invited to test out the course; to be traveling with the top U.S. guys who are like family to me and who may eventually be my U.S. teammates was an honor! The course ended up being one of my favorites of the season, it consisted of two big step-ups, tight turns and a pro jump which reminded me of a road gap where the ground dropped out from under your feet for a good 20-25 feet. I challenged myself and I won another silver medal, my third silver of the season. I’m seeing a trend here and feeling good about it. I left ready to take on the World Cup in Slovenia.

Slovenia World Cup – The Slovenia World Cup was quite an experience. The snow was slushier then any snow I have ever rode. The two feet of slush in the turns ate me up during practice and the double “wutangs” at the start were one of the most challenging features I have rode yet . A wutang is basically a wall with a flat section on top. They were maybe two feet wide up top. Due to the slush, there was nearly no transition on the backside of the first one so if you overshot it then you would fall from the sky and land flat, then quickly reset for the second one. Needless to say, practice was one of the most discouraging days I have had yet on my snowboard. As defeated as I felt, all that kept going through my head was “never let defeat defeat you!” I spent the evening visualizing the course, coming up with a game plan, then went back on race day and nailed the start and the rest of the course! I won another silver and my first silver on the 2013 World Cup circuit! “Never let defeat defeat you” has never felt so true!
Canada World Cup Day #1 – The Canadian World Cup was one of the most fun experiences yet! The course was long – around a minute and half long. It took a lot of endurance. It started with a 12-foot wutang, which I am proud to say that after the Slovenia experience, I nailed right off the bat. There were 10 turns and a handful of rollers and features between each. I went into this race feeling strong and won another silver World Cup medal with a 33-second lead over the next fastest girl who trains on our Adaptive Action Sports team as well, Heidi Jo Duce.

Canada World Cup #2 – Day two of the Canadian World Cup I was fired up and ready to go! At this point we knew the course like the back of our hand and my goal was drop my time from the day before by two seconds each run. I ended up dropping it by 11 seconds overall. I exceeded my own expectations and with this race secured a solid silver medal, a second place ranking in the world and a secure ranking for the U.S. team! I walked away feeling proud and “safe.”

Final Copper Qualifier – The last race of the winter was the USASA national competition and final qualifier of the season. For those of us who had solid world rankings, this was the least pressure race of the season meaning the results would not make or break us. The course was the shortest of the season, only 40 seconds long at fastest time. I went in calm, maybe too calm. Bibian wasn’t there, so looking at my times all season there was a good chance I could bring home that gold. My first run I played it safe in order to get a secure time and I came out in first place. My second run I decided I needed to go for it, I cleaned the top with a good amount of speed, then suddenly I hit a rut and I took a fall off the first turn. I lost two seconds and have now fallen into second place. I now needed to duke it out on this third run. This is the first time of the season that I was not “safe” and have had another competitor this close to my time. I had two options – race as fast as possible or race as safely as possible. I decided to race safely. The last thing I wanted was to go down like I did on my last run. I ended up racing clean, coming out with the fastest time of the day for women but with the overall combined times I ended up losing gold by .03 of a second. Such a small increment of time is hard to fathom.

So here it stands, I won my seventh silver medal of the year and I learned another lesson. That lesson is that it’s ok to race safe at times but it’s not ok to believe you are safe. This is a race after all and everyone wants that gold! As hard as it was to swallow that I lost gold by an inch, I am more motivated than ever to do what I need to do in order to race the absolute best I can from this point forward.

There is always a silver lining.