Winter Paralympics Vancouver 2010
By Jane Sowerby
The opening ceremony was definitely one of the highlights of the games for me – it’s hard to express the incredible atmosphere in words, but it was an experience that I’ll never forget. We travelled down in a huge convoy of buses to Vancouver, complete with police escort; as we approached the stadium the excitement was practically overflowing. They grouped us into countries in the holding area to wait for the parade, alpine skiers teaming up with the wheelchair curlers. Our team seemed very small behind the huge German squad, especially as we were missing two of our athletes competing in the Downhill the following morning. Then suddenly it was our time to enter the stadium. Wow, what an unbelievable feeling! The stadium was packed with a 60,000 strong crowd, all cheering loudly as ‘Great Britain’ was announced. We got to parade across the centre of the arena, waving at the fans and soaking up the phenomenal atmosphere. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, I felt so proud to be British and representing my country in something that I’m this passionate about.
So on to the races – the unpredictable Whistler weather played havoc with the schedule; they managed to get the Downhill training run off successfully, but the actual race had to be postponed due to poor visibility. The organisers then made the decision to run the technical events first. My confidence after the recent injury just wasn’t up to the job unfortunately. In slalom I really struggled with the icy race piste, skidded out and missed a gate. The weather really took a turn for the worse for Giant Slalom. It decided to rain. A lot. We were absolutely soaking and needed goggles with windscreen wipers! I skied it really tentatively but made it over the finish line, giving me the opportunity to hear the Brits in the crowd roar loudly. However, just before the second run I was told I’d been disqualified for a ‘rolling start’. This is something we’ve not really come across before so was pretty devastating.
The rest of the team worked really hard, got some good results but unfortunately not the medal that we were hoping for. We learnt some valuable lessons, though, that will help make us stronger leading up to Sochi in 2014. Personally, I need to actively seek some ice training to be able to perform in those conditions.
The closing ceremony was also amazing; people lined the streets of Whistler as we did a village parade to the medals plaza, with very vocal support along the way from all the Brits! There was an emotional handover of the Paralympic flag from Canada to Russia, and then it was over.
Although disappointed with my performance, I feel so lucky to have made it here at all after breaking my collarbone just six weeks before the start of the games. To have experienced the atmosphere and pressure of a Paralympics will put me in a strong position to compete at next year’s World Championships in Italy and continue through to the Winter Paralympics in Sochi 2014.
Thanks to everyone for providing relentless support, we couldn’t do any of this without you.