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Nascar On Ice Debuts At Games

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nascar On Ice Debuts At Games

It has been described as a mixture between NASCAR, moto-cross and bullfighting. That is the prospect 21-year-old Mitchey Greig faces when she debuts in the first-ever women's Olympic ski-cross at Cypress Mountain tomorrow.

Greig has to first qualify via a time-trial. Only 32 of the 35 entrants progress to the four-woman heats. If the Kiwi freestyle skier makes it through, she and three competitors will negotiate a small halfpipe to start before unleashing themselves at speeds often in excess of 80km/h down the course. The top two go through from the heats and semi-finals into the medal round.

Greig says the start has been a nightmare to work out: "Over three training sessions we've got better but it was funny; before the first run everyone was looking sideways at it, going - how do we do this?"

The simple answer was to watch the Canadians, who, in what has been a general talking point at the Games, have had plenty of practice.

"They could do the start no sweat so it was like, oh that's interesting," says Greig.

By keeping her eyes peeled and using some kiwi ingenuity, Greig did find her own secret practice tool by chance, way up on Whistler Mountain.

"We were going up to the peak-to-peak gondola and came across a start gate. Initially we thought it was a complete replica. It wasn't quite that, but it has given us extra practice."

Greig initially got into the sport when she missed out on the last Olympics as an alpine skier.

"I realised there wasn't going to be a pathway for me in the future. All I wanted to do was speed and there was no structured programme to get me there. Then I saw ski-cross had everything I wanted: speed, jumps and racing with my mates, so I switched and haven't looked back."

It can be brutal though. It's hard enough skiing down some of the slopes on offer but there's extra pressure when three other skiers are within close proximity. Greig sums up the contact rules: "You're not allowed to physically get out of a start gate and push someone over, but you are allowed to hold your line. If you ski your line and nudge someone then that's okay, provided you are slightly ahead of them. That means you get right of way.

"You've got to be conscious of what others are doing but it's hard to predict. You've got to go for it and try to keep your line. I've been on skis long enough that it comes naturally but sometimes everyone's skis go everywhere and it's uncontrollable.

"The start is key because the snow conditions [with so much getting transported in due to the mild weather] mean it's like 'boot-top sugar'. It hasn't bound well and that means it is hard to pass people on the course."

Greig is one of ten Olympic winter athletes who have received funding via the New Zealand Olympic Committee. Olympic Scholarships were distributed to athletes most likely to benefit from additional income. Greig receives support of up to just $40,000 per annum from the Winter Performance Programme (via SPARC). The scholarship doubles this support and assists Greig pay for travel, accommodation, coaching, clothing and food. Scholarship funding comes through Olympic Solidarity; the IOC's charitable arm that redistributes more than 90% of revenue earned from the sale of international broadcast rights to the Olympic Games.

Greig starts at 7.30am (NZT). Also back in action tomorrow is Ben Griffin in the giant slalom (GS). Griffin was unable to finish the super giant slalom (Super G) late last week. His event is underway from 7am.

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