I'm a day late posting this, because I'm still sleep deprived from being up at 1 a.m. to watch the qualifying rounds, then at 4 a.m. to watch the finals... then hieing off to a Council meeting where I relied heavily on coffee to get me through the day! I did manage to nap in between... and had it not been for the meeting at Township, I'd have spent the night with the 200+ other folks who gathered at Hidden Valley Ski Club to party through the night celebrating their very own Dara Howell.
Dara grew up at Pow Wow Point Lodge, run by our good friends and neighbours, and learned to ski at Hidden Valley. It is, as she who is now used to massive mountains describes it, a "modest little hill" but it has great fast chairlifts, varied terrain, enthusiastic instructors and its very own terrain park complete with rails, small half pipe, moguls... It is where Dara learned to ski race -- but found that just plain going fast wasn't her 'thing' and where she discovered playing with the rails and the jumps that took her into Slopestyle.
And it is the Olympics... We all know that at that level of competition places are determined by micro-second, fractions of percents, one tiny error against the elements. We have watched those tagged to be 'sure thing' medallists fall on the skating rink, miss a jump they've landed a million times, catch and edge, come down with the flu or an injury just before the day they have trained for over several years.
I think we all collectively held our breath, those of us who know Dara, as she stepped onto that hill for her first qualifying trip. Those rails are huge. The kicker jumps are even more huge. The snow conditions were not ideal and meant that any tiny error or even adjustment in the run could wash out enough speed that the athlete simply could not get the distance to the safe landings... God bless her parents, Dee and Doug, and her 'crazy nana' Jackie who were there in the crowd, seeing just how huge that course was...
And Dara -- as they say -- stomped it. She put in an almost flawless first run, to win the qualifying rounds handily. That puts pressure on any athlete... She watched some of her team-mates and friends fall on the course. Hard.
And she stepped onto the course for the first of the medal round runs and put in a trip that took our breath away. Not only does she make it look it smooth, she does most of it backwards -- it reminded me of the old adage about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers -- Ginger did all the 'tricks', but backwards and in high heels. Well, Dara does the tricks, backwards, and in ski boots...
Wow. Just Wow. Her first run in the two run finals put her something like 15 points ahead of the rest of the field. There was no need for her second run, so she took that as a Victory lap, and we hope she enjoyed every single second of that ride down the mountain at Rosa Khotur knowing that she, on that day, on that very hard course, was queen of the mountain, and champion of her sport.
It made the day sweeter that one of her team-mates Kim Lamarre was on the podium with her winning bronze. What a day for these young athletes, whose sport is included in the Olympic Games for the very first time. What a way to write your name in the history books.
Huntsville has been decorated for weeks with signs in store window reading Go Dara Go! (David even has one on his fish hut!)
Now they'll be adding a few letters to those stickers. GOLD DARA GOLD.
Your hometown could not be more proud or happy for you! I think the collective cheer woke up almost all of North Muskoka!
If you've been over on Mars for the past few days, and have not seen Dara's gold medal winning run at Sochi, you can watch it here.
Monarchs and Milkweed, our frequent flyers
18 hours ago