Local athletic legend Jody Barber has a shot at a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games.
Barber will be competing in six events over nine days, four cross-country skiing events and two biathlon events.
“It’s an honour to be able to compete for Canada at the 2010 Paralympic Games,” said Barber. “I’m very excited about that opportunity but of course there are times when I’m nervous as well.”
To deal with the nerves she puts all her energy into focusing on training her technique and effort.
Barber was recently wrapping up a week of training in Switzerland before competing in World Cup races in Bessans, France at the end of January and races in Oberried, Germany early February.
She’s returning home in a few days.
She started cross-country skiing with one pole late in 2007, one year after her accident in Nov. 2006.
She had been training for the long distance Triathlon World Championships in Canberra, Australia when she fell off her bike along a busy highway and a car drove over her right arm.
In 2007 when she started cross-country skiing again she was introduced to para-nordic skiing.
“I trained without a coach that season, but since the spring of 2008 – after four silver medals at the National Championships – I’ve been with the National Para-Nordic ski team and have several great coaches.”
She said the training can be intense and there is a lot of travel demands as they try to stay on snow for most of the year. That traveling is one of the hardest part of her training, she said.
Her first international competition was the IPC World Championships in Finland in Jan. 2009 and, “it was easily as big as the Paralympics will be for para-nordic skiing.”
She was overwhelmed for her first race but brought a different attitude with her to her second day and placed third in a 15 kilometre classic race.
That placing secured a spot on this year’s Para-Nordic World Cup Team, and a berth on the 2010 Paralympic team, she said.
“I had lots of good races last year on the World Cup circuit, including another bronze medal and a silver one, and I learned a lot about racing.”
She is currently ranked first in Canada in the women’s Standing LW category (standing skiers with a limb disability).
She said that training goes in cycles, some weeks easier than others, and that rest and recovery are extremely important.
These days it is a lot of fine tuning and while she may not train harder than usual she is certainly more focused.
“There is also a strong mental component to racing well and so we do work on that,” she said. “Ideally, you want to have fine-tuned the race prep so there are no decisions to make out on the course as far as how to deal with the difficult sections. It should be fairly automatic.”
As she heads towards the Games, Barber offers words of encouragement for everyone to do what they can to stay in shape and exercise.
“You just never know how the health benefits may positively impact your life at some point,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t be going to the Paralympic Games in March if I hadn’t been fit before I started para-nordic skiing. In fact, I probably would have lost my arm in my accident if I hadn’t been training for long triathlons.
“You just never know.”
Barber’s events run from March 13 to 21.