Kimberly Joines is looking for a measure of redemption when she navigates the slopes at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia next month.
The 33-year-old Rossland sit-skier has been a member of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team for 11 years, with over 40 World Cup medals, a 2008 World Cup championship, and a bronze medal at the 2006 Paralympics in Torino, Italy to her credit, but it was missing an opportunity to ski at the Vancouver-Whistler Games in 2010 that really vexes her.
“I am looking for just a little bit of redemption,” said Joines. “Both from the fact that my 2010 experience was non-existent given my injuries, and then last year in Sochi spent a week in a Russian hospital, so yeah redemption, getting to actually compete, getting to compete well, and shine at the events that I’m working hard at, and getting on the podium in a higher position than I did on my only Paralympic podium in Torino.”
Joines was a virtual rookie when she captured bronze in Torino in ‘06, but since then she has been plagued by injuries including a broken hip that sidelined her for the 2010 Games and all of the next season, and shoulder injuries at the World Cup finals in Sochi last year.
Since losing the use of her legs in a snowboarding accident in 2000, the Edmonton native has stoically persevered, emerging seemingly better-than-ever after each injury and setback.
During her comeback season of 2011-12, Joines won gold in her first race and went on to finish second overall in GS World Cup standings.
And aside from a tweaked shoulder suffered in a near wipeout on her way to silver at Copper Mountain earlier this month, Joines has enjoyed relative good health the past year capped by two silver and two bronze medals at the 2013 World Championships in La Molina, Spain in February.
“Other than the little shoulder tweak, I’m feeling really good,” she said. “I just have to maybe take it easy at the next camp.”
The team will continue to train, however, unlike non-Paralympic years will do so with caution in preparation for the big event.
“In a Paralympic year we change how we approach things. We don’t go to all the events, so we are opting not to go to a couple events that I would have raced at . . . I’ll scale it back a little bit, but at the same time I need to train in that mode where I’m pushing, pushing, pushing, because if I do want gold, I know I have to attack top to bottom.”
In her quest for gold, Joines chose to focus on the technical events this year, concentrating on the slalom and giant slalom rather than the downhill speed races.
“I use to do all five events, but it’s down to two so it’s definitely a lot less opportunity, but within those events, I mean slalom I feel super confident, and have extreme podium-potential, but GS (giant slalom) I wasn’t quite sure, and for the way my category is across the board it’s super tight in that event, anybody can take it on a given day.”
Still, Joines managed to ski to a silver and a bronze in the GS at World Cup races in Panorama and Copper Mountain earlier this month, and another silver in the slalom. She medalled in every NorAm and World Cup race this season and will look to carry that momentum into Sochi.
“I have some nerves but I’ve always been the high-level athlete that performs at go time . . . so I guess it comes naturally to me to step-up on game day.”
The Sochi Olympics has been accompanied by security concerns and a controversial LGBT policy, but the politics doesn’t distract Joines who intends to stay focused on the business at hand.
“Maybe it’s naive of me just to expect that it’s all going to be smooth when I get there and you roll with the punches if it’s not . . . I just always assume that there’s a van waiting for me when I get there and a hotel room booked for me . . . so when it comes to security and all that I just don’t even think about it.”
In Sochi, Joines will race in her best event, the slalom, on Mar. 14, followed by the giant slalom two days later. While she can’t wait to go-for-gold in her two slalom races, the veteran national team member is determined to take time to savour the full Paralympic experience.
“In a games year, whether intentionally or not . . . we do it for something bigger than ourselves, we do it for Canada,” Joines writes in her blog. “We represent our country on the World stage, and ‘they’ are watching, cheering, and sharing the experience with us.
“Distractions aside, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to celebrate being a part of the ‘bigger’ picture, and something that I for one will not let pass me by without enjoying the ride.”
The Paralympic Games goes Mar. 7-16 in Sochi. Follow Joines on her blog at www.kimberlyjoines.com or on twitter @9livesjoines.