“When fear stares you down, spit in its eye.”
That is the motto of Canadian Ski Cross team member and recently named Olympic team member, Dave Duncan.
Duncan, who has called Golden home since 2007, has been busy over the past year training, racing and vying for a position on the Olympic team. 2010 will be the first year that ski cross will be an event in the winter Olympics.
Over the summer Duncan says he spent a lot of time doing dry land training camps and physical conditioning. Over the fall, he attended various training camps, working hard to prepare for the World Cup circuit in the hopes of qualifying for the Olympic team.
“In early December , we [the Canadian Ski Cross team] headed to San Candido, Italy for the first World Cups of the season. I saw mixed results there. The first race, I had a solid run with a couple minor mistakes. I actually missed the qualifier in the first race by 0.01 seconds. In the second World Cup I qualified by placing 25th.”
Advancing to the quarter finals, Duncan says he crossed the line in an unfortunate 4th place because of a slow start.
After a nice break for the holidays in Engelberg and St. Gallen, Switzerland, Duncan was off to St. Johann, Austria for the next stop on the circuit. For the first World Cup of the New Year, Duncan placed third in the final for his best result to that date.
In his online blog, Duncan said, “It’s an incredible feeling to step onto the podium after all the evening’s action, however I have to stay focused on my goal of qualifying for the Olympics.”
The team then headed to France where Duncan qualified 8th after a strong run and advanced to the quarter finals where he would finish 11th.
“In the quarters I didn’t get out as cleanly. I think my finish there was weaker because I tried to rush a pass and ultimately ended up dumping my speed.”
Duncan explained that there had been another race scheduled for the next day in France, but it was cancelled due to weather.
“They went off our qualifying times and I only placed 15th in the qualifiers. It was disappointing because that is a race that can’t be used for Olympic qualifying.”
After France, it was back to Canada where Duncan raced in the World Cup stop at Blue Mountain in Ontario on January 20. He then headed to Lake Placid for the final qualifying race of the year for the Olympic team.
Duncan says that he was excited to have some old friends come out to watch him race at Blue Mountain.
“It’s great to compete in front of friendly faces on a mountain I know. I know these last two race courses really well and they are courses that suit me.”
After what Duncan called a disappointing ninth place finish at Blue Mountain, Duncan headed to Lake Placid where he needed to finish no worse than fifth place to be on the Olympic team.
He would hang on for a third place finish in the qualifying round and headed into race day knowing he would have to fight for that fifth place finish.
“I didn’t sleep much the night before the race, as my nerves were on high alert,” says Duncan, adding, “Nonetheless I awoke to the feeling “this is going to be the day”. Taking that attitude onto the hill I had a great first heat. I accelerated out of the gate and pushed the pace across the line to finish first.”
In the quarterfinal heat Duncan’s race was almost thwarted by a gate that didn’t drop.
“The starter yelled “attention”, which was closely followed by a gate drop, however the release mechanism on my gate did not release as I watched my competitors speed away,” says Duncan, adding, “For a split second I thought about asking for a restart, but you never know how those are going to turn out so I figured it was a better shot trying to catch the guys.”
Duncan would cross the line first. He says that at that point he had to decide to either advance to the final and guarantee himself an Olympic berth or be relegated to the small final where he would have to win to get the spot.
“After leaving it to the final race to decide my Olympic future I was tired of the stat keeping and excitement that goes with qualifying. I was ready to seal the deal. Andy Matt of Austria and I were dead even as we entered the roller section, but I was able to pull ahead into the lead by taking the skills I learned on the pump track this summer and using them on the track. I didn’t ski the cleanest of runs, but made it difficult to pass and crossed the line ahead for my third heat win of the day. Each heat I crossed the line with more and more enthusiasm, but this time the weight of qualifying for the games had just been lifted off my shoulders, and was I ever pumped! Vancouver 2010, here I come!”
Duncan would go on to have his second World Cup podium finish of the season and he says this could not have come at a better time in his career.
“Words cannot come close to describing how excited I am to be named to the 2010 Olympics. It is truly a dream come true!”
Duncan headed off to compete in the X-Games last week and will come back home to Golden for 10 days before heading off to Vancouver and Whistler.
“I hope to get up to Kicking Horse and do some recreational skiing while I am back and at the same time I will be training and fine tuning myself,” he says.
Follow Duncan on his Olympic journey by visiting his blog at dave-duncan.ca.