This article was originally published on Lanettte Prediger's website.
Ah, Altenberg. Perhaps the most feared and respected track in the world. As a common stop on the Europa, Intercontinental, and World Cup Circuits, most skeleton sliders have had an introduction to this track at some point in their career. What’s the big deal? It’s a combination of factors. This ex-East German “secret” track is set in a dark and gloomy forest, tucked into the middle of nowhere, and has notoriously dreary weather. It was supposedly modeled after the Calgary track, but instead of being easy, fun and glidey like it’s muse, something went wrong and every corner seems too short/flat/long/tight. Two corners in particular, Corner 4 and the 360 degree Kreisel are especially difficult. As the announcer during our World Cup race stated “Corner 4 is really in skeleton terms a terrible corner… like you just can’t steer it nicely… like there is no fast way through there”. It also has a super long and flat push. By time you get on the sled you are exhausted! Plus, most sliders have either personally experienced or witnessed a crash here that has left them physically and/or mentally shaken up.
Personally, I considered my last visit to Altenberg (December 2014) a success. I had hoped I could pick up where I left off last time and work on “fine tuning”. However, the situation was a bit different this time around. First, World Cup sliding is very different than that on lower circuits, which I have discussed previously. The best, most experienced athletes in the world are here. It’s not enough to get down the track in one piece, everyone here has been doing that for years. A combination of experience, good pushing, confidence and excellent lines are necessary to be at the top. Although I am confident in my driving abilities, I don’t have a lot of experience on this highly technical track, and I also had some pretty bad experiences here in the past. Add to the formula my newly broken thumb, still in an immobile splint. Before coming to Altenberg I had not yet had the opportunity to try sliding or pushing with it. I can tell you that led to more than a small amount of anxiety leading up to my first run down the track.
Training was up and down. Old problems resurfaced and I struggled with corners 4 and Kreisel. In the second last day of training before the race, I had an especially difficult run and flipped onto my side at the exit of Kreisel. I was frustrated, worried, and some of that old fear was starting to creep in.
Luckily, with the help of my amazing support system, I was able to do some trouble shooting the night before the last day of training and figure out a game plan. The plans worked and on the last day of OT I finally nailed Kreisel, and it felt amazing.
I had three goals heading into the race: two clean corner 4s, two clean Kreisels, and two sub 6.0 second pushes. I was third off in the race order, and my first run went well. I executed what I planned, and ended up in 10th place.
Here I go!
Not a fantastic placing, but not terrible. I didn’t have much to improve upon, however, as I had a pretty good run. For the second run I tried to stay relaxed and be consistent. As it turns out my second run was very similar to the first. I had a sub 6.0s push, a clean 4, and a clean Kreisel. But it was slow. Very slow. When I crossed the finish line I was shocked to see I had dropped 5 positions. I almost couldn’t believe it. Usually for that kind of carnage to occur it would involve some sort of mini-disaster (like a fall on the start ). I filed through all the parts of my run in my head over and over and all I could come up with was that I had too much control, and lost a lot of speed by over-steering to ensure a clean exit of 4. Even looking at the video my run didn’t look perfect, but it didn’t look terrible. It was a hard pill to swallow. I have learned over the years not to focus on results but rather on the process. The hard thing to understand was that I had actually achieved all the goals I set out for myself, and despite that, not had a good result.
I’m glad to be done with Altenberg for the time being and we have moved onto Konigssee. Sliding starts tomorrow and the race is on Friday. Hopefully things go a little better this week, but as always it’s anyone’s guess!
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.’