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Kennedy-Sim has learned too much to stop now

14 March 2018

SKI CROSS: Two-time Olympian Sami Kennedy-Sim, who has been Australia’s leading Ski Cross racer for over a decade, has seen her sport grow internationally into a fierce battle ground.

Talented and determined athletes require every mental and physical skill to enter the combat zone in which four women go head to head over jumps and down features to finish first or second to keep alive any hopes of progressing to the next round.

There’s no prize for third until the very last race for the podium.

Kennedy-Sim, who has been a fixture in or near the top ten in the world for many years, placed eighth AT the PyeongChang Games after a series of annoying 11th places in lead-up World Cups.

Last weekend in Russia, she improved on her Olympic result with a fifth and seventh in two tightly contested finals and is preparing for the World Cup Finals in Megeve, France this weekend.

A broken wrist strap on her ski pole at the start of her PyeongChang final’s race robbed the Sydney ski queen of an even better result and she has no doubts about going after a third Olympics.

“Hell yeah,” Kennedy-Sim exclaimed when asked if she was continuing this week.

“PyeongChang was definitely a step in the right direction. It’s taken me eight years to get here. I am definitely committed to continuing.”

Her struggle to get to her first Olympics in Sochi after suffering from a stroke is well documented and the now 29-year-old says she has grown as an athlete and a person.

“I had such an amazing Olympic experience in Korea. I learned a lot from Sochi and how I would do some things differently. I grew up,” she said.

“Olympics is not a World Cup. It’s a really special thing. You only get one shot and I wanted to make the most of the experience.

“Watching other teammates and letting myself soak up the Olympic vibe was really important. In Sochi I tried to push it down and this time I was far more relaxed and far better prepared than four years ago.”

Kennedy-Sim is a fighter. From a life-threatening illness to competing in a cut-throat, sometimes vicious sport that is still emerging in Australia requires a tough-minded attitude, yet it’s the race in her head that she wants to conquer more than anything.

“Honestly for me, even three weeks from Olympics to now, my biggest battle is between the ears.

“My mental game really tends to be what lets me down, particularly in the last six to nine months. I’m looking forward to building that (her mental skills). If I can get that up to scratch, I will be all good."

Kennedy-Sim knows she is better than good in the elite echelon of Ski Cross, yet as she talks openly and publicly about her competitive mental skill set and desire to step it up more. You can’t escape the feeling - as a bystander - that she struggles with the idea of climbing her mental cliff, and that you would willingly stand beside her, or better still behind, and gently nudge her up the craggy, rock face called confidence.

“There are elements of my personality under pressure,” she muses. “And for me now it’s about the skills. It’s about minimising.

“The Olympics were five full race rounds to stay in the game. I am looking forward to building on that more and having that bit more confidence. You only get that in races. That’s why I stayed on racing instead of going home.”

Being a proud Olympian comes through in everything Kennedy-Sim says and forms her approach to the future.

“In the last year I’ve learnt that our sport is continuing to grow rapidly at the elite end and those experiences at that level you can’t buy. Seeing the way successful people operate.”

“It’s only the beginning of March and I’ve been in nine countries in three months watching how those successful people operate. Learning how and what makes the best tick. It’s about surrounding yourself with successful people.”

The strength of the Australian Team in PyeongChang was highlighted by Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman and embodied by leading athletes such as Kennedy-Sim.

“Those days before the Closing are treasured and the ceremony itself tied us all together. The feeling of the Team was so good.”

“I think that the people that made the Olympic team were the bobsled guys and they really embraced the Olympic culture. They went to so many events for people they didn’t know. They really were the glue and were relatively new to the winter sport. That was so important to the team. There was such good comradery.

“So, for me, at 8am in the morning, I was up at their event. We are here for you. It is the Olympic spirit.

“There will be a few people who retire and if this is a cultural set for our team, with so many young ones, what a great start!”

The Ski Cross World Cup Final in Megeve, France will be held on Saturday, 17 March from 11.30pm (AEDT). You can follow live results HERE.

Belinda Noonan

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