Lyne back from fall for giant slalom

Bad luck, worse timing. You’d have to go some to find an Olympian at these games whose preparation has been disrupted to the same extent as that of the final Irish athlete in competition.

Conor Lyne’s preparations for this morning’s giant slalom have been disrupted by a fall in practice  and bad weather but he’s ready to give it his best shot. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Conor Lyne’s preparations for this morning’s giant slalom have been disrupted by a fall in practice and bad weather but he’s ready to give it his best shot. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 01:00

Conor Lyne goes in this morning’s giant slalom, almost three weeks after arriving in Sochi and 10 days after a fall that could easily have kept him from taking part at all.

And just to put the tin lid on it all, yesterday’s free ski down the competition run was cancelled because of the weather up at the top of the mountain. Though it affected the whole field, Lyne’s fall and the days of training he’s missed because of it means he could have done with every bit of help available. Not that he’s complaining. He’s not the type.

“Hey, it’s the Olympics,” he says cheerily. “I was never going to not compete. I did a training course yesterday and today and the shoulder is fine. It’s a bit stiff and sore but other than that I’m not losing any movement. I have all my skiing movements down so it isn’t really affecting me that way. There’s just a bit of pain but you’ll have that. This is ski-racing.”

Adamantly Irish
Lyne’s time in Sochi couldn’t have begun better. Although born in England and raised in Utah, he is fiercely and adamantly Irish. With a Kerry father and a Limerick mother, his only passport is an Irish one and his accent has only a trace of American in it.

To be chosen, then, as the flag-carrier at the opening ceremony made it, he says, the best day of his life. Within 48 hours, however, he was lying in the snow up on Rosa Khutor.

“It was just a fall in training. I straddled a gate and so what happened was my ski went above the gate and threw me off balance and left me very light on my skis. It caused me to front-side the next gate down from it and that’s how I fell on the front of my shoulder.

“It was on the steep section of the training course and the snow was really hard that day. It was like ice. I just came down on it hard and when you’re falling on a steep part, there’s no forgiveness. It wasn’t too bad, just a shoulder compression. It could have been worse.”

That was Sunday week ago and ever since, he’s carried it around in a sling.

He’s been a fixture at the events of the other Irish competitors - he and Seamus O’Connor rushed to the athletes’ entrance at the Sanki Sliding Centre when they saw Sean Greenwood come off his skeleton on Friday night – and otherwise he’s been rehabbing his shoulder. Lots of stretching, lots of exercising, not enough skiing.

“Ski-racing will always mean a few of these small kind of injuries. You’ve just got to put them behind you. You’re here to compete and if it’s a non-violent injury like a shoulder, you’ve got to go for it.

“I had the accident on Sunday and I didn’t ski again until Wednesday. So I missed four days, really. Then from Wednesday onwards, I did three days of free skiing, whereas I would normally be training on the gate courses. So yeah, I missed a good bit of training. It’s not ideal.

‘Not optimal’
“But look, my skiing has been good over the season and I am feeling good going into tomorrow. It’s not optimal but you’ve just got to roll with these things. It happens. We’re in a dangerous sport. It’s just bad timing more than anything else. It could have happened anywhere – it’s just bad luck that it happened here.”

While he was never going to threaten the higher placings, Lyne was aiming at his 52nd spot at last year’s World Championships and hoping to improve on that. That looks unlikely now. But he’s here and he’s as ready as he’s going to be.

He’ll head up to the starting gate this morning, plant his poles and go. Whatever happens, happens.

“I haven’t set myself a target, really. Even coming in before the injury it was a matter of giving my best and see what I come out with. That’s the mentality I’m going in with now. I want to do the best with what I have and try to make Ireland proud and make myself proud, really.

“Anyone’s first Olympics is always going to be about experience. You do take it that way rather than putting so much pressure on yourself, which can turn into a negative for you anyway.

“I believe that if you come in relaxed and focused and without any expectation on you, you can do better. That’s the mentality I had at the World Championships and I came away with a good result there.”