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Preparing for Sochi. By Michael Milton

February 17, 2014

I fly to Munich tomorrow and I don’t know where I’m going once I arrive at the airport.

I’ll turn my phone on as soon as I get there. Hopefully I’ll have an SMS from the head coach of the Australian Paralympic team telling me where they’re training. Then I guess I’ll catch a train or a bus or something to wherever.

Plans change often and quickly. This is something you learn as a winter athlete. The original plan was to be in Abtenau, just south of Salzburg in Austria, for a few weeks but the conditions haven’t been great there and, as a result, races and training have all been cancelled. The coach is in Italy now looking for an alternative. Fingers crossed he makes a decision before I get to Munich or I might be bedding down in the airport!

It’s probably not at the top of his priority list but I hope he finds a place with good internet access and a decent television so I can watch the Olympic Games. As a Paralympic athlete (and now as a coach) I’ve missed a lot of Olympic moments over the years as those three weeks of competition are always the final and most important weeks of training before the Paralympic Games. Sitting around watching Olympic athletes (many of whom are friends) compete really does eat into training time. Still, I hope to get a little couch time over the next couple of weeks… maybe at Munich Airport while I wait for that SMS!

The Paralympic team has had some great results this year. Vision impaired skier Jess Gallagher and her guide Christian Geiger have improved from sixth to first in the world in slalom. Mel Perrine and Andy Bor have also improved their rankings in three events and made their first world cup podium in three years. We’ve also qualified three snowboarders for the sport’s debut in the Paralypmic Games in Boardercross. Fingers crossed I will lose my title as Australia’s most recent winter Paralympic gold medal winner (from the Salt Lake Games in 2002).

So I am returning to winter after seven weeks at home enjoying the summer. Still, it’s a good time to head off with temperatures edging 40 degrees in Canberra this week plus it won’t be nearly as cold as Colorado was in December. I have all the right Mont gear to keep me warm in the snow wherever I’m going in Europe and then in Sochi for the Games. I’ve packed my favourite merino and down combo.

Enjoy the Olympics on TV but don’t watch too much. Leave some energy in the tank to tune into the winter Paralympic Games starting on March 7. You will see some great skiers and snowboarders in action. And make sure you tune in to 666 ABC Canberra Radio early most mornings for my updates from Europe during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

See you back here in Canberra for autumn… if I ever leave Munich Airport!

See Michael’s previous blog post about his time coaching the Australian Paralympic Alpine Team in Colorado, USA.

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