Racing for Olympic selection

Skeleton racer Katharine Eustace trains on a wheeled sled at the High Performance Sport New...
Skeleton racer Katharine Eustace trains on a wheeled sled at the High Performance Sport New Zealand facility in Wanaka. Photo by Catherine Pattison.
After narrowly missing Winter Olympics qualification four years ago, Wanaka skeleton racer Katharine Eustace is channelling all her energy into making it to the starting blocks at Sochi.

Preparation, training and fundraising will occupy most of her time while she is back home for the next few months.

''It's not all just about sliding,'' she said.

A recent two-week training trip to Calgary, Canada, to use an indoor ice facility was part of her annual build-up to racing in the northern hemisphere.

''It has a 100m-long track that replicates the push start so I can practise the technical aspects of that.''

At $C250 ($NZ302) an hour to rent the space, Eustace worked to a predetermined plan, making sure she covered each technical aspect of the 20m-30m sprint and dive on to her sled.

Video footage was uploaded to Winter Performance Programme sport science director John Turnbull and High Performance Sport New Zealand physiologist Angus Ross back in New Zealand. Eustace would then discuss with them online how to correct her body angles to create more speed.

Now in her seventh season skeleton racing, Eustace (38) has boosted that power output.

''I am running consistently faster than I have done before.

''That's where you generate your speed [for the sliding section], so it's a really important part of the race.''

Working part-time as a physiotherapist, she fits in a 16 to 20-hour a week training programme, which is primarily gym-based and includes weightlifting, sprints and plyometrics (jumping and bounding).

In the back of her mind is the knowledge that she was only one spot away from qualifying for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

''I thought, I achieved this with little experience, so I do have the potential to do it next time [Sochi, February 2014].''

Earlier this year, Eustace was buoyed by a career best and the highest result by a New Zealand skeleton racing female - finishing 10th at the world championships in Switzerland.

A new $7000 steel and fibreglass sled she is fundraising for will, hopefully, give her the edge on swift sliding and she has reached about $5000 on an online crowd-funding campaign, which closes in two weeks.

''If I want to give it my all and know I am on the best equipment, I needed a change just to see,'' she said of the reason for upgrading her 5-year-old sled.

She will leave for pre-season training in October before embarking on seven world cup races in North America and Europe.

''That's when we earn our spots for the Olympics.''

Rippon Vineyard is hosting a wine options fundraising night for Eustace on Saturday, August 31 at 7pm.


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