SO the circus of the winter season begins here! I’m out in Norway and have been back on the ice for the first time since March after a summer of gym training in the UK, where we try to get ourselves as physically strong as possible for the winter season, dead-lifting 150kg and leg-pressing over 500kg most days.
The first training camp of the season here in Lillehammer is always full-on. Now is the time where we have to put everything into practice; it’s exhausting mentally and physically, stress in the workplace in practice, which I know a lot of you can relate to!
So far, though, it’s going really, really well. It can be quite daunting getting back on ice for the first time again. What can you compare it to? It is literally as if something has taken you by the shoulders and is shaking you.
I was apprehensive coming to this camp but I’ve surprised myself. I must know each corner of the track in Lillehammer better than any in the world and since the spring all I’ve been able to do is visualise going down the run.
This season is my most important yet. In four months’ time I will hopefully be off to my second Winter Games, where I have my Olympic title to defend and a goal to be the first British Winter Olympian to do so.
The GB team selections take place here in Lillehammer and then I’m off straight away to Pyeongchang — the 2018 host city — to train on the Olympic track. In March at the test event I came fourth and there’s a lot to do before returning there in February for the Games but part of that involves making mistakes and allowing yourself to make mistakes.
That’s absolutely fine at this stage of the season and something you should embrace as a slider. There’s no such thing as a perfect line in skeleton, you have to find the best and most efficient route down every time.
I have the confidence that comes with being Olympic champion, going to the huge spectacle that is the Games and coming away with the gold medal. Not many in the field can say that as a number of my rivals retired afterwards, including the silver medallist Noelle Pikus-Pace of the USA. It’s mostly going to be a field short on Olympic experience.
However, I don’t think going in as reigning champion gives me a great advantage. It is a whole new track in South Korea and I will have to treat it with the utmost respect.