by Kim Seevers, Staci Mannella’s guide
ASF Race Team member Staci Mannella and I recently returned from Down Under where we raced in the season’s first World Cup competitions. We were excited to join the US Paralympics National Team that competed in New Zealand and Australia at the end of August (remember, their winter is just finishing). It was an amazing trip made even better by the fact that we took a couple huge steps on the road to being named to the US Paralympics team that will represent the United States in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia in March.
When Staci and I talk about where we’ve been and what we’re doing, it seems like a really confusing process…that’s because it is! I thought I’d try to explain it in 10 easy words, but that was impossible so I hope you’ll settle for this watered down version.
Here’s how our road to Russia is playing out. In July we were named to the US Paralympics Alpine National Team. This is NOT necessarily the group of individuals who will go to Russia. Last season we lowered our points enough to be considered as World Cup podium capable. We actually blew that one out of the water when we won our very first World Cup race in New Zealand! From there, we competed in six more races, with four 4th place finishes (one SG, two GS and one slalom) and a 5th (one slalom). We did not finish the SG part of the Super Combined in New Zealand. Our last race was cancelled because there wasn’t enough snow to hold a safe race. The awesome part of the Australian races was that six of the top ten ranked female VI pairs (visually impaired) were in the field along with a couple other good racers so we finally got to see how we stacked up against the competition we will see in Sochi. That 5th place actually represented our best effort as we were right in the medal mix and came away with very low race points.
A new rankings and points list comes out the first of each month and the September list reflected our performance Down Under. We are particularly pleased with our slalom as we are ranked 7th in the world among active VI women with 63 points (140 is World Cup qualifying, remember lower is better). This qualifies us to race in both slalom and GS in upcoming World Cup races in January. We are ranked 10th in GS (152 points) and 9th in Super G (187 points). Downhill remains a question; we have points but not enough to qualify to race in the Paralympics. Right now there are only five visually impaired women in the world qualified to race downhill in Russia. I think the organizers may have to do something about that between now and February. It’s hard to train DH here in the East, but Staci loves downhill so we’ll see what happens with that. We’ll also be racing in two more Super Combined competitions in December and January to try to get qualified in that. Theoretically we should be pretty good at it because SG and slalom are our two strongest events.
The best outcome of the NZ-AUS trip is that our results put us solidly inside that group of nine among the women vying for the right to represent the US in Sochi. Rest assured we understand the importance of the upcoming months and we will be training and competing in a fight to stay there.
We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to everybody who has supported us by reading our posts on Facebook and by following our blog. If you’d like to join us on our journey, please visit www.stacimannella.com or like us on Facebook at Staci Mannella – Athlete. See you in Russia; I hear it’s pretty nice there in March!