Paralympic skier Luscombe learns lessons at Sochi games
Paralympic skier Braydon Luscombe’s back from Russia with love for his sport, and his hosts.
“It was a pretty amazing experience,” the Duncan homeboy told the News Leader Pictorial, fresh from the Sochi Paralympics.
Despite not winning any hardware, Luscombe’s no sore loser.
“I didn’t ski the greatest; I had some bad races, but a few good ones.”
Soggy slopes in the seaside town didn’t help him during downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, and super-combined events on an otherwise “awesome mountain, with a bunch of different terrain.”
“I struggled with finishing the course — it was really rough conditions; soft and bumpy snow so it’s really hard on us one-leggers.”
But to Luscombe, 21, it’s not if you win, but also what you learn — as he now sets his sights on South Korea’s 2018 games.
“I definitely learned some good stuff with not finishing some races. There was some frustration on my part.”
But he and his downhill squad followed Canadian Paralympic Committee standards “and overall did really well, and won some gold, silver and bronzes.”
“Going to Sochi, you want to win medals but you don’t know really how much you want to win medals until you get over there.”
Getting to Pyeongchang is Luscombe’s next goal.
“These next four years will be really good.
“Each cycle is just about trying to improve some of the basics in early season training, starting the cycle of racing, and creating the momentum.”
Hospitality momentum in Sochi was satisfactory — snow conditions aside.
“We were in the athletes’ village on the mountain. They did the best they could.
“For athletes it was awesome. They had a huge cafeteria and our rooms were really good.”
Good also for his 30-some family members and friends who travelled to Russia to root for Luscombe’s crew.
“It was really cool, they really enjoyed themselves.
“There were crappy days of weather with rain and fog, but most days were sunny and warm. It was really bad for the snow, though.
“They’ve got to stop moving the Winter Olympics near coastlines.”
Slushy conditions meant heavy slogging for the left-legged racer.
“On one leg, it’s tough because you have to dig in a lot more, and the bumps throw you off.”
His team tried to train for soft rides, but couldn’t compensate for every risk.
“We tried to find soft (training) conditions, but with bumps you never know what they’ll be like.”
“For sure, not taking any moment for granted in training, on the hill, or in the gym,” stated Luscombe.
“Every second of the four-year cycle has to be put toward skiing. I gave it my all and put four years into it.”
But he didn’t put much thought into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean region during the Paralympics.
“Everyone was honestly just focussed on the games.
“It wasn’t an issue at all. Even spectators and families totally forgot about it, while they were there.”
Tight security defused terrorism threats.
“It was a secured area in the athletes’ village; there was nothing to worry about.
“Every two minutes on the (village) walkway, guards would walk by patrolling.
“And up the mountain, it was security scanners, and they taped your bus up to make sure no one entered it.”
Army tents were pitched in the bushes “but you didn’t feel like it was overwhelming.”
“They were just in the background waiting, in case something happened.”
Luscombe only got a glimpse of old-town Sochi that some press, including CBC-TV, reported was basically razed — and its residents evicted — to construct the games site.
“We went down there for closing ceremonies. We didn’t get to look around much.”
But he did see President Vladimir Putin.
“We didn’t meet him, but one time in the lunch room he walked through with guards, and gave everyone a wave.
“All the Russians loved him.”
And Paralympians became fond of each other before and during Sochi, he explained.
“We were all living and eating in the athletes’ village, and on the hill together.
“You get to know them all as friends, by traveling the World Cup circuit.”
That joy continued among Canadian volunteers and their hosts.
“The Russians seem to love Canadians, for some reason,” he happily reported, noting spectators packed the stands most days.
“And press coverage was definitely better this year than any other year. It was difficult for people to watch it fully on TV but there was YouTube coverage.”
Luscombe was uninjured at Sochi.
“At least five people were helicoptered out. Conditions pushed people to the limit; I’m glad I could push it to the limit, but escaped with no injuries.”
Luscombe leaves March 21 for Whistler for the Canadian championships.