Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh finished tied for first in the Canadian women’s skeleton championship in Whistler, B.C., on Sunday. (FILE PHOTO)
Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh heads to Sochi next week for a training trip and is one step closer to returning to the Russian city for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in February.
The 29-year-old Neelin High School graduate finished tied with Robynne Thompson for first place in Sunday’s Canadian women’s skeleton championship in Whistler, B.C., unofficially clinching a spot on Canada’s World Cup team and putting her on the fast track to the Sochi Olympics.
The national teams will be officially announced sometime this week, but Hawrysh is a lock to race on the World Cup circuit for the second straight season after her superb performance in Whistler.
"Every other year we have had national championships in Calgary and last year I was silver medallist behind Sarah Reid and this year I definitely had my sights set on being the Canadian champ and that’s what I did," Hawrysh said Monday.
"I am really comfortable in Whistler, but that being said, the training was a bit inconsistent for me in terms of just getting back on the Whistler track this past week. But there was an element of confidence knowing that I had performed well on the track in Whistler before, so I was prepared and when it came down to race day, I knew what I had to do: Push fast and drive to the best of my ability."
Hawrysh and Canada’s top Olympic candidates will travel to Russia on Nov. 5 for two weeks of training on the Sochi Olympic skeleton track before returning to Calgary to open the World Cup circuit on
Nov. 29. After posting a pair of top-six finishes last season, Hawrysh will be looking for a couple more in the first four World Cup races in North America to officially clinch her trip to the Olympics, although she is already a leading candidate to qualify along with Reid, Canada’s top-ranked women’s skeleton slider who has already qualified for the World Cup tour.
"The two Olympic qualifiers from last year are great starting points, but I am still looking to get two more, two more top six (finishes) in the first four races in Calgary, Park City (Utah) and then a double race in Lake Placid (N.Y.)," Hawrysh said. "So definitely that’s the next couple of steps."
Russell’s Jon Montgomery, the 2010 gold medallist in Vancouver, placed fifth in the men’s national team qualifying race on Sunday. With only three spots available on the World Cup tour, Montgomery may wind up starting the season on the second-tier Intercontinental Cup tour, although he could still move up and earn enough points to qualify for Sochi.
Canada’s Olympic skeleton team will be officially announced on Dec. 17.
For her part, Hawrysh is trying not to think about a possible trip to the Olympics just yet, as she focuses on preparing to get off to a strong start on the World Cup tour.
"I’m definitely excited for the season," Hawrysh said. "Everything is on track, literally and figuratively. This is how the coaching staff of the team prepares us for it going and I am proud to say that my body is in the right place, my mind is in the right place and my equipment is ready to go. So all that there is left now to do is just race."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 29, 2013