The decision wasn’t easy, but necessary for Summerland’s Kristi Richards.
At the end of November, the two-time Canadian Olympic mogul skier announced she would use this season to focus on training rather than compete. Richards spoke with a few people including her coach Darcy Downs and Jennifer Heil.
“It’s scary to step away from competing, but I know that the results will be worth it,” said Richards. “There have been many incredibly successful elite athletes that have taken a year off, and with the refreshed perspective they come back at a whole new level.”
Richards missed the 2004 season due to a knee injury, and from that experience she knows that she can come back stronger. Heil proved it after taking a season off during each quadrennial by winning two Olympic medals. Olympic gold medal winner Alex Bilodeau is also taking the same approach.
“It feels like the right plan and I am really excited about what the season will bring,” said Richards. “I have chosen to re-locate my major training back to the Okanagan and Apex, where I can train on Kristi’s Run and be close to my family. Apex has been such a great supporter of mine throughout my career, and they have committed once again to helping me make this year efficient and successful.”
Richards is committed to making a run for the Sochi Games in Russia and believes taking a rest from the grinding pace of the World Cup season will help her to win a medal in 2014.
“The regime of the competitive World Cup tour definitely takes its toll,” she explained. “We are at a new venue, a new country and a new time zone almost every weekend, so we need to be very disciplined with sleep, nutrition and physical fitness while on the road. It can be challenging to meet all of those needs with the schedule and culture differences. Chronic injuries from the impact of our sport compound over the season, so by the end of each season most athletes are on a serious rehab program.” While training, Richards will build proper alignment and strength so that her body can handle the impact for the next few years leading up to the Games. Richards believes the winning run at the 2014 Games will require women to find another level on their aerial maneuvers by adding difficulty without compromising form. Her goal is to not only do tricks, but be exceptional at them.
Richards is also taking this approach because 2014 will be her final Olympic Games.
“I want to make sure I do everything I can to put myself in the best position for a medal,” she said, adding that if a World Cup event becomes part of the training plan then she will compete once or twice this year. “This plan has to be right for me. There is not a guaranteed guideline out there on how to win an Olympic gold medal. Each athlete has to create their own best path based on personality, skills, experience and values. My two Olympic experiences were much different from each other, and I expect the same for the third.”