Athlete spotlight: Alice McKennis
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I am currently in Bansko, Bulgaria, for a few days off before some of the last World Cup speed races of the season.
We just arrived here after racing at the 2014 Winter Olympics venue in Sochi, Russia. It was a great weekend for me – I finished 10th in the downhill! I felt totally out of control and on the edge of putting it in the fence, but I guess red-lining it and being a little sketch can be fast. Downhill isn’t about looking pretty, thank goodness, but pushing it and seeing what happens. I came down in the lead and was able to stand in the leader’s box for a short time, which is also good fun.
I’m really happy with my result, especially after being in a bit of a slump since Lake Louise in December. It was awesome to get it together and not ski like such a Sally. My training runs in Sochi were, to put it mildly, unpleasant to watch, so to turn it around on race day was pretty sweet.
The downhill track in Sochi is very cool – some tough, steep sections combined with two decent-sized jumps and a considerable amount of terrain on the flatter sections. It’s a ton of fun and there is always something coming at you. It’s nice when you get on a course where you have to be proactive the whole run and not be a bump on a log in sections.
Aside from the skiing in Sochi (which is epic – the freeskiing is so good), the only other major thing going on there is construction – and plenty of it. Sochi has to be the largest construction site in the world: They are building 24 hours a day. It’s impressive. There is a long way to go but at the rate the Russians are going, there is no doubt they will be ready for the Olympics barring some catastrophic event. We were lodged in the only two finished hotels in Sochi, so there was not much else to check out there.
The security also made things interesting – going through metal detectors every morning with ski gear was quite the treat. Pretty much all ski equipment is metal, just in case people didn’t catch on to that one. Getting a pat down in full ski garb could not be that effective, but I admire their determination to make us safe – from who or what I don’t really want to know.
There were also men with machine guns at the top of the gondola, and men with some pretty intimidating batons everywhere. I wanted to do a trade for one of their fur hats, but they were not thrilled about the idea. Hopefully in 2014 I can get my hands on one.
We have one downhill and super G this weekend in Bansko, then we get to go home for the first time since Christmas! I am so excited to get back to Colorado and everything American. I just can’t wait to see my family and special friend.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.