- Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiers saying it's mental on the mountain in Sochi
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, -- When you are about to hurl yourself down an icy mountain slope at 130kph on a pair of skis, it pays to clear your mind beforehand.
Olympic Alpine skiers preparing for the blue riband downhills of the Sochi Games, with the men in action on Sunday and the women on Wednesday, can be seen performing often elaborate routines at the top of the hill before entering the start hut.
RELATED: Margin calls - U.S. talks Alpine variables
It is not just a question of keeping the blood circulating and the body warm.
Employees used to Tai Chi sessions outside their office buildings before embarking on a day's work may see similarities in the preparations carried out by the world's elite skiers and that is no coincidence.
Embedded video_content_type: Alpine skier Julia Mancuso finding balance in life
In skiing, the mental side is just as important as the physical.
"I just warm my body up and do a little bit of Qi Gong and relaxation," American downhiller Julia Mancuso told Reuters after training on Saturday.
RELATED: Julia Mancuso - Equipped for speed
"It's mostly, like, mental preparation.
"For me, it's keeping my body temperature warm and visualizing the run before I do it...the most important thing for me is to stay calm and clear my mind and go for it and just remember that I know how to ski."
Those of a more superstitious nature might go through precise routines, as is also common in many dangerous sports such as motor racing, but for all it is important to minimize the clutter.
Embedded video_content_type: The mystique of the start house
Some listen to music, others prefer to run through their own mental mantras.
Steven Nyman, who secured the fourth and final downhill slot on the U.S. men's team, said he liked to keep it simple.
"You go over the course (mentally) and just kind of convince yourself," he said. "I have just three things I say to myself over and over. It always changes, but it's something I do every day. Keep it simple, three things that will make a difference.
RELATED: Steve Nyman - Anatomy of a crash
"I just kind of reiterate those in my head and go for it."
He said Saturday's three were 'Pull my inside hip back', 'Search for aerodynamics' and 'Take it deep'.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi Olympics: Third men's downhill training
Laurenne Ross, the second woman out of the hut on Saturday, said those minutes before the start were pretty intense.
"You are about to send yourself down an icy downhill so it's kind of tense up there, everybody's quiet and you can just feel a lot of tension," she said. "If you just get in your own zone, that's the best way to go about it.
RELATED: Laurenne Ross - Alpine origins
"My mind goes blank more when I actually push out of the start gate. I get a good focus in my head, try and make whatever I'm thinking about sort of a sub-conscious thing to happen and then I just go."
Switzerland's Dominque Gisin, fastest in Saturday's women's training, clearly managed to get herself in the zone even if she was cheerfully skeptical about too much introspection or self-analysis.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi Olympics: Third women's downhill training
"You always try the same (routine)," she said. "But sometimes you feel really good and you ski really bad. And sometimes you feel really bad and you ski good.
"So in the end all that matters is your performance on the skis. You can talk a lot about mental stuff, but I tried a lot and did a lot of races and I start to think it doesn't make too much of a difference."
Best of Sochi
Best of Day 5
Best of Day 3