Athletes squeeze out the distractions focus on sport

They train six days a week for four years for one chance at an Olympic medal.

With so much invested, how do our athletes feel about their safety at the winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia? It’s not even a factor.

“We don’t even think about it,” said Shandia Cordingley, traveling physiotherapist for the Canadian Olympic snowboard alpine team — the sport Ross Rebagliati made famous 16 years ago in Nagano.

Cordingley has accompanied Canada’s best male and female snowboarders to exquisite mountain ranges in the USA, Europe and Canada, helping keep their bodies fit to race at the highest level.

This year, the team has been especially busy preparing for and competing in qualifying races that would determine which athletes would compete in Sochi. Their training schedule was relentless.

In heat of the summer, they spent six weeks training on the snowfield atop Mount Hood, Oregan and nearly four weeks at Copper Mountain in Colorado. Another two weeks was spent at a little family-run resort in Kruezberg Pass, Italy, then on to Austria, Slovenia, and Germany.

The team chose these relatively obscure locations because they’re usually not as busy as the more popular resorts, and they are equipped with t-bars, not chair lifts. T-bars help the athletes get back up the hill quickly, so their lungs and muscles don’t have as much recovery time as they would lounging in a chair in the sky.

“We pack, drive, train, pack, drive, race, then do it all over again. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds,” Cordingley said.

During quiet moments, while the athletes are practicing, she will snap a self-portrait with her iPhone and post it to Instagram for the rest of us to admire. With snowy mountain peaks as a backdrop to Cordingley’s gorgeous smiling face, it sure looks like the best job in the world.

The potential threat to support staff, fans and athletes at these games seems greater than those past — suicide bombers have never played a role in the media’s pre-Olympic hype.

Russia’s anti-gay laws must be especially frightening to gay citizens from countries where being homosexual has just become acceptable to admit out loud. It has highlighted how much work has yet to be done for human rights globally—work that gets done by bringing diverse groups together.

Most athletes respect their fellow competitors, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. They respect each other because they know how much dedication and sacrifice it takes to make it to the podium.

This mutual respect spills over to their fans, too. Put all these people shoulder to shoulder and pre-conceived ideas soon break down. As Nelson Mandela is often quoted, “Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else can.”

The 2014 Olympic Games are hosted in an environment of legislated discrimination. There is no better event or location at which to prove them wrong.

As for the safety of our athletes, the Canadian Olympic Committee is on top of it. Everyone on the Canadian team will receive a cellphone when they arrive in Sochi’s Athlete’s Village. They are briefed on the safety plan and given contact numbers in case of emergency. They fly directly into Sochi, with no internal transfers in Russia.

“The COC has a full plan and back-up plan. They organize everything for us so we don’t have to worry about it. It doesn’t even faze me,” said Cordingley. Let the Games begin.

Maeve Maguire is a technical writer who lives and works in Maple Bay and writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial. Visit her blog www.cowichandale.com, or email her at maeve@describewriting.com.

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