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Wrapping up the skicross season with Emily Sarsfield

From World Champs to World Beating

Words by Emily Sarsfield

Now the World Cup season is over I’ve got time to breath and write another blog! I hope over the last 6 weeks you saw a few press releases with my race results and also saw me on Eurosport 2!! Anyway, this is what I’ve been up to since my last blog. Enjoy!
I wrote my last blog from Deer Valley, Utah, USA where I was invited to compete at the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Champs.  It is one of the only competitions where we all get together as one whole freestyle ski team with the Ski Cross, Moguls, Aerials, Slopestyle and Halfpipe athletes.  And the buzz in the team was great and so we all got together for the opening ceremony in the centre of Park City, Utah.  Park City know how to throw a party!
Back to the Ski Cross World Champs… The course was built well and it was great fun to ride. With a tricky uphill section, it was really important to get it right and then be able to carry the speed across the final flat section. Training went well and I was ready for the race. Placing 19th I was really happy, but the competition was really close and if I was only half a second quicker I would have been in the top 15. However, 19th still meant I qualified for the heats so my mind set had to change ready to race the course head to head with other riders… not as easy as I thought.  I had not experienced heat racing for five months, so getting the mind set for this was quite tough… I still gave it a good shot, but unfortunately I didn’t finish in the top two of my heat and missed the quarterfinals.  Saying that, 19th place in the World Championships isn’t a bad job for a Brit!!


Unfortunately my 19th place came with some bad news too… I had over-jumped a feature on the course and my knee reacted quite badly to it.  With advice from physios and doctors they were not sure on the damage and left me strapping and icing for the next few days hoping it would be OK for the next World Cup in Blue Mountain, Canada.
We headed to Canada but my knee was still quite upset with swelling.  And rather than risking my knee and possibly causing more damage, I decided not to race and headed back to the UK for an MRI scan.  The MRI result was OK; I hadn’t caused any acute damage, but unfortunately my cartilage was and continues to suffer badly and may need more attention over the summer.  However, I was given the go ahead that I could race in the remaining races of the season.
After the MRI scan and with a gap in the World Cup calendar, I had a couple of weeks down time to rest my knee and do some ski instructing, earning much needed pennies and helping me carry on with my sport.  It was nice having a change from the high speed carving and jumping and helping people learn the basics of a new sport… the joy on their faces when they master it is priceless!
After teaching next stop was Switzerland for two World Cups!!
Due to my amazing financial sponsors, Lifeboat Tea, Ladies Ski Club, Ski Marmalade and the Balches, I was able to invest in the two Swiss races the way I would love to normally be able to compete in Ski Cross.  I took my trusty physio Suzanne and a coach… yes you heard it… A COACH! I have always wondered what it would be like to have a Ski Cross specific coach and you’re about to find out…
Christian Cretier ex French team Ski Cross racer, podium World Cups and represented France in the X Games was available to help me, which I was stoked about as not only do I respect him as an athlete, he is a genuinely nice guy wanting to help.

What a difference a Coach makes!
We headed over to Grindlewald with my boyfriend Dave (the driver), Suzanne and Christian… I had a proper little entourage, amazing!  Christian soon jumped into his roll as coach when he spotted me pinching one of Dave’s Maltesers and told me off!  It was really refreshing having someone doing this, as for so long your a one man (woman) band, which is very hard to keep motivated 24/7, 365 days a year, so I welcomed the strictness of a coach!  We turned up at our lodging, a beautiful 4 star hotel over looking the Eiger… amazing, what a great start to the competition!
Unfortunately the first day of training was cancelled due to the wet warm snow conditions, but we headed up the mountain to take a look at the course anyway and do a little bit of ‘training’.  A slow day, but at least I had the course imagery in my head.  I ran over it in my head 20 times before I went to bed, so I was ready the next day to ski!  We only had two training runs before qualification, which meant we had to get used to the jumps really quickly.  With no turns in the final part of the course, it was interesting getting used to the speed, it was like a downhill with big jumps every 50 metres!
It was time for qualification and I was ready, I headed out the start gate with MY entourage screaming “go, go, go” at me.  The race felt OK, but when I heard the announcer read my time and place me 13th, I was gobsmacked.  I had jumped 15 places from my start bib and was now in the mix with the top racers in the world, beating two top eight world ranked athletes!!  The quarterfinal heats on the final day were great fun, but with lack of heat experience this year I did not advance to the semi finals.  Still, I finished in 14th place, my best result for three years!! All the coaches and athletes congratulated me, it was great to turn some heads.
We set off that evening to Meiringen for the next World Cup.  Again it was a great course with lots of jumps and turns.  I had a few issues with the first feature, a wu-tang, but I made it down in 22nd place.  And although I didn’t qualify for the heats I had beaten my early season peers by about two seconds, so I could definitely see the improvements Christian had given me!
What a difference a coach made… it has made me so excited for the future and confirmed I am capable of being up there and competing with the best girls in the world… roll on the future next years World Cups!!
To try and save some pennies for next season (I don’t know yet if I will be receiving TASS funding), I decided not to travel to Sweden and Norway for the final world cups of the season, so my next stop was going to be the French Champs, but this has now been cancelled.  However, I will be at the Brits this Thursday in Laax!! Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!!
Take care,
Em

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