Snowboarding: Sinclair holds on to her dream

By David Leggat

Rebecca Sinclair is vying for a spot on the NZ Winter Olympics team for Sochi.
Rebecca Sinclair is vying for a spot on the NZ Winter Olympics team for Sochi.

Top class snowboarder Rebecca Sinclair hopes what she calls "a hiccup" doesn't play havoc with her Winter Olympic dream.

Sinclair, fourth in the halfpipe at the past two world championships in La Molina, Spain and Oslo and clearly among the elite of the discipline, had surgery on her right anterior cruciate ligament last December.

That was around the start of the Olympic qualifying period. Not great timing.

So the Winter Games, starting in Wanaka next week, loom as an important part of her preparation for securing a spot on the New Zealand team for Sochi in February.

Sinclair finished 21st at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. It was a steep learning curve for the Auckland-born, Taupo-raised, Wanaka-based 21-year-old.

"It was all pretty overwhelming, but exciting," she said.

"I hadn't had a whole lot of experience with major international events. I remember literally shaking before dropping into my run."

She crashed on her first run but bounced back with a solid second effort. As Sinclair put it "that fuelled my fire to come onto these ones and do well".

Now with almost four more years competitive wisdom under her belt, plus contesting the X Games since Vancouver, Sinclair is sure she is a superior allround competitor.

"Mentally I'm a lot better, stronger and I've learnt a lot of different skills.

"Fortunately [because of the injury] I haven't dropped too far out of the rankings."

She sits 32nd overall. The top 30 get a spot on the pipe in Sochi. Sinclair has three events coming up after Cardrona and the Winter Games in which she can qualify: in Ruka, Finland, Copper Mountain in Colorado, and Stoneham in Canada in December and January.

That's cutting it fine for qualification, however, one strong result and it could make the following events unnecessary.

Sinclair is treating Cardrona this month as a chance to get her competitive juices flowing again and test her fitness. If she pulls out a podium finish all the better.

Snowboarding comprises halfpipe and slopestyle racing, where riders negotiate a range of different obstacles. Sinclair is looking to qualify in just her preferred halfpipe - so called for its shape.

"The pipe is very technical, hard to ride, but you always know it's going to be a halfpipe.

"In slopestyle you might not know until you get to the event what the features are going to be.

"I like that you train for what is going to be, so there's no surprise."

There's more than the snow sports to Sinclair's life, as you'd expect from someone who says "I definitely find brains pretty interesting".

Sinclair is studying for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in psychology and wants to work towards a career in neuroscience or neuropsychology.

Personal experiences helped steer her down that academic path.

"Over the past few years I've had some struggles mentally so I started reading a lot of brain books from all sorts of perspectives, from chemicals to more self-help ones to anatomy ones. I just found it really fascinating."

Sinclair has been on an athletic track since 14.

"I have a huge support staff which is good but you feel quite caged in sometimes. That focus on per-forming, every day thinking what am I meant to be doing at the gym, at this, at that.

"It takes a while to learn how to deal with that."

Sinclair's talent has got her to the edge of a second Olympic Games. She's optimistic about her chances. Margins are small between the leading competitors.

Those fourth placings indicate the skills are there. Ally it to a greater mental maturity and Sinclair could be New Zealand's best chance of a medal among the women in Sochi.

Games schedule

Aug 18: FIS Australia-New Zealand Cup, giant slalom men, Coronet Peak
Aug 20: FIS ANZ Cup, giant slalom women, Coronet Peak
Aug 21: FIS ANZ Cup slalom men and women, Coronet Peak

Aug 16: World Cup halfpipe qualifying, Cardrona
Aug 17: World Cup halfpipe finals, Cardrona
Aug 23: World Cup slopestyle qualifying, Cardrona
Aug 25: World Cup slopestyle finals, Cardrona

Aug 18: World Cup slopestyle qualifying, Cardrona
Aug 19: World Cup slopestyle final, Cardrona
Aug 22: World Cup halfpipe qualifying, Cardrona
Aug 24: World Cup halfpipe final, Cardrona

Aug 18, 19, 21: Mixed doubles, fours, Naseby
Aug 22, 23: Semifinals, finals, Naseby
Aug 22, 23: World Cup slalom, Coronet Peak

- NZ Herald

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