I am almost finished packing for tomorrow’s trip to Spain to compete in the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Championships, as well as World Cup Finals in Russia a bit later. I have rifled through the contents of my room many times over looking for random bits of accouterments necessary for skiing. I have packed and then repacked all my bags, trying to get them all to 50 pounds or less. I believe I have failed miserably on a few of them, judging by the difficulty I have had picking them up. The last year has been spent preparing for these races, with countless hours in the gym, on the hill, and in the tune room, making sure my body and my equipment are functioning well enough to go faster than everyone else. Even with all the preparation, there is no guaranty of success. I am acutely aware that despite being extremely well trained, the effect of hitting a rut just slightly at the wrong angle is enough to send me hurtling into the safety netting. Regardless, my bags are packed, and all I want is the opportunity to push out of the starting gate.
The World Championships are being held in the town of La Molina, Spain. The hill for giant slalom and slalom has a really steep pitch, so I should have some advantage, as I am lighter and more maneuverable than the average monoskier. The hill for the speed events, however, is rumored to be quite flat, which is not good for me at all. I have quite a bit of skill at speed events, but I am lighter than everyone else out there, making rough terrain, wind gusts, and mistakes add much more to my overall time.
I am most excited for Russia. We are having a test event in Sochi so that we can make sure the venues are going to work properly before the Paralympics next year. Most of what I know about Russia has been learned from years of movies, all with a strong Western Cold War bias. I assume this portrayal is not quite accurate, but the visa application process would suggest the movies are not all wrong. The Russians want to know a bit too much information about you, especially if you have ever been in the military. I don’t have to deal with this issue, but a few teammates do. I can’t help but wonder how I can get a Russian customs agent to say to me “Mister Valker, vee haf vays of making you talk.” That would be fun. I have also learned a few useful Russian phrases, my favorite of which is “spokoynoy nochi” which means “goodnight.” I plan on using this phrase in as many unsuitable situations as possible, such as to the start referee, just before I go out of the start. Imagine the confusion.
The rest of my bags are not going to pack themselves, so google Rosa Khutor, the name of the ski area in Sochi, and I am going to finish up here.
Talk to you from Spain.