Keeping the flow, Erin Mielzynski leading young Canadian tech team into Beijing 2022
Contributor: Ben Steiner
When Erin Miezlysnki kicks out of the gate at the Beijing 2022 Olympics, she wants to feel like it's just her, her skis and the course. “It’s nothing exceptional; it’s not that I find a sixth gear, it is just being in that flow state,” she says. “I can’t tell you the joy it is to ski that way.”
At just 22 years old, Mielzynski, a tech expert, won her first World Cup race in Oftershwang, Germany, but since standing on the podium, gold around her neck back in 2012, she has yet to have a similar result. Now, heading into her fourth Olympic Games, she’s feeling present, not only in her skiing but her role on the team.
The Canadian tech team, especially the slalom side, is incredibly young. Amelia Smart, 23, and Ali Nullmeyer, 23, head into the Games for the first time, and both were just learning to race when Mielzynksi won her one World Cup. Meanwhile, Cassidy Gray, 21, brings youth to the GS team.
“I don't really notice it a lot of the time. People are very determined, very motivated and also very unique,” Mielzynski says of her younger teammates. “Sometimes they ask me questions; I think they know I’m here.”
Mielzynski doesn’t feel different than her teammates throughout the four-year quad. When the Olympics roll around though, the 31-year old’s experience is bound to come in handy, offering a veteran's perspective to the young team heading into the Games.
“Every Olympics is so special; every Olympics has unique aspects things that people are worried about,” she says. “You have to pack your patience; that’s the perfect way to describe the Olympics. You have to roll with the punches and be mentally tough enough to roll with the punches.”
In China, Mielzynski will write the latest chapter of her Olympic career, one that started in Vancouver in 2010, in front of thousands of Canadian fans as she carved down Whistler’s slopes.
For Smart and Nullmeyer, facing the weight and magnitude of the Olympics is something they have not yet endured, but they have thrived on World Cup throughout the pandemic. In a pandemic Olympics, the race won’t be much different than the fan-less World Cups they’ve adapted to.
Still, there is a greater desire to perform, and the Canadian squad knows that they are some of the world’s top skiers. Four skiers have finished in the Top-10 in World Cup slalom events this season, making the world’s best and the podium not too far off.
“We don’t need other teams to compare ourselves to in training,” said Mielzynski. “We can see where our pace sits when you know that one of your teammates finished in the Top-5.”
Mielzynski, who has only reached the podium one additional time after the Ofterschawng win, has had a strong 2021-22 season, including a 9th place finish in Kranjska Gora, SLO. However, she followed it up with a DNF in Schladming, AUT.
After a few tough seasons, the rollercoaster nature of her results has become a theme, and she knows it.
“I can put all these expectations on myself,” she said. “I was sixth at the World Championships, and I think I started putting expectations. If you’re sixth, you can medal the next one. I guess it's my dark spot.”
Now a veteran, she feels better physically than she did at her first Olympic experiences. Without a nagging back injury that she had battled through since she was 13, Mielzynski can keep the flow more often.
However, at the Olympics, the slope will even the playing field for the inexperienced and the grizzled veterans. Due to COVID-19, World Cup races did not make their way to the National Alpine Centre in Yanqing, CHN making the course unknown territory to the Canadian team and the rest of the Olympic field.
“I like when things are challenging. It makes me think about the process instead of the outcome,” said Mielzynski. “I'm pretty excited. And it just levels the playing field a little bit. No one's seen it. It's no one’s strength, no one's weakness.”
Despite being an older team member, Mielzynski is excited about these Games. At 31-years-old and feeling fast on her skis, she is ready to lead a young Canadian contingent into the unknown and through their first Olympic experiences.
While a medal is always the goal, Mielzynski wants to feel present when she kicks out of the gate. If it’s just her, her skis and the course, then anything can happen, no matter if it's her rookie Olympics or her fourth.
“My huge goal is from start to finish, to have that feeling that beautiful flow and freedom,” she says. “Where it comes out is where I come out. If people are better than me, they're better than me.”
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