It was a moment of Paralympic clarity. I was standing at the bottom of the super G course at Sestriere, Borgata in a media scrum around Vancouver’s Lauren Woolstencroft. She had just earned a silver medal in the standing category, shaking off a disappointing fourth place downhill finish from two days before.
I was content to sit back and take notes while the more seasoned reporters asked their questions, knowing I’d get a chance to ask a few questions of my own when they were done their interviews.
I’m not the world’s greatest sports reporter, but I’ve learned a few things in the last six and a half years talking to people whom I believe are some of the top athletes in the world – ask a stock question and you’ll get a stock answer.
Yes, Lauren was happy with her win. No, she didn’t let the fourth place finish get her down.
Then the tone of the questions changed. The reporters started to ask questions about her disability, like how exactly she learned to ski, did she consider herself a role model, and how did she find the accessibility in and around Sestriere. Not one question was asked about her run that day.
And it was a great run. On the big screen at the finish area I saw her make a slight mistake up top and kick up a bit too much snow around one corner. She pulled it back together almost instantly, and by the bottom of the course was carving perfect ‘Cs’ around every gate, gaining speed wherever she could find it, to earn the silver medal.
It wasn’t the gold medal that she wanted but if she didn’t have the discipline to get back on track after her lapse up top it wouldn’t have been any kind of medal at all. To me her quick reaction screamed one thing – training and more training.
So I broke into the interview and asked a few questions about her run, and then about her training regimen.
When there was snow on the mountains, she said, she was on it, and when the snow was gone she was in the gym doing dryland training, knowing full well that all the other competitors from different countries were doing the same thing, and that she has to be completely dedicated to stay one step ahead of the competition. It was a full time job she said.
At that point, one of the reporters asked an unfortunate follow-up question that he regretted right away.
"What kind of exercises can you do in the gym?"