Charlie Vail

I think I have just slept for well over 12 hours … and for once, don’t even feel guilty about it. The last couple of months have been then most crazy that I can remember.

I made it back out here to Austria on January 5th and slid around for a few weeks concentrating pretty hard on sorting out basic technique to fill in the time until I could manage to ski properly which definitely was not a waste of time – I am 100% feeling the benefits now that I am fully up and running.

Thankfully that didn’t last too long and on the 2nd Feburary I competed in my first races of the season in Lakenhof which I have to say were a complete shock to the system and probably was the hardest part of the whole rehab and recovery process so far. First up were 2 GS races, I won’t beat around the bush, but I was slow. The skiing in itself wasn’t all together terrible, but my tactics, race line and all round intensity was missing. Thankfully, over the 4 runs, the form got better every time and I was starting to get back to where I am aiming to be. The hardest part of those two races for me was mental, I found it so excruciatingly hard to stay positive and remember that I was back racing 10 weeks after breaking 4 vertebrae in my back. I definitely went back into the races with too high an expectation of what I was still capable of, forgetting that I hadn’t been in the situation of not racing for 5 months: Something that was downright stupid of me, and served me some good lessons for the next races. Therefore, the slalom race was a completely different game. I went in expecting nothing and figured I may as well just give it a shot, see what I could get out of it. With this mind set, I actually ended up winning the first run! Something I really couldn’t believe and has given me such great confidence over the last few weeks. Second run (unfortunately) fell into the category of downright hilarious as I smashed my face off a gate and my goggles were pushed over my eyes for the last quarter of the course but with about 10% vision carried on and gave the spectators some interesting skiing involving a lot of inside ski action and never before seen line choice! Although I was disappointed not to win, the first run was such a great reminder to me that I could still actually ski and was still capable of skiing fast, and with that we decided that we were going to head out to the World Champs in Vail.

Vail was something else completely, I had a great time at the championships and had some of the best training in the preceding days alongside some of the fastest skiers in the world. I was putting in some good times, so was really feeling ready and confident for the races to come.

First up was the team event. I am sure a number of you have seen the video – if not head over to my facebook page to watch Team GB almost take down the Italians. It was unbelievably close (0.14s), and definitely one of the most adrenaline pumping races that I have ever competed in. I just wish there was some way of knowing exactly how high my heart rate was in that start gate – probably a new max! Everyone in the team skied so well and Dave posted one of the fastest times of the event.

Two days later, Alex and I took on the almighty Birds of Prey GS which was my first ever time competing in a world class GS event and was incredible to be starting with number 49. The race did not turn out the way that  I had imagined, and I know I could have done better, but at the end of the day, again, I needed to remember that in some way it was a great achievement to even be standing in that start gate strong and healthy.

The slalom was where I really achieved my goal for the championships, and finished in the top 35, albeit a second run full of mistakes was not idea, and being under a second out from making the top 30 there were a couple of missed opportunities for a much better race. Nevertheless, I am sitting here now back in Austria feeling actually quite satisfied with the last couple of weeks and everything that I have been able to achieve since November.

There are so many people to thank. Firstly I am going to put out a massive THANK YOU to Perth Hyperbaric Services who took me under their wing way back in November and gave me the speediest recovery ever and to all of you who contributed to and supported my Make A Champ campaign throughout the summer – we wouldn’t have made it onto the plane without you. To Scott, Niall and Kelly from SportScotland Institute of Sport for making sure I was doing everything right. My coach Stefan for being unbelievably patient – especially in the recent races. Cairngorm Mountain and Snow Factor for initially getting me back on my skis and last but not least my parents and siblings who have been the best support I could ever ask for!

A massive thank you to everyone who donated to my Make A Champ campaign, the money raised from this paid the travelling costs for me and my coach. So without your support I literally would not have been there!

Here is to phase #2 and now grabbing some results over the next couple of months to get on with my seasons goals.

Much Love, Charlie x


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