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Sliding track feeling hard and fast

Published 7 February 2018 (AEDT)

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: Lucas Mata of Australia trains during Bobsleigh practice ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Centre on February 7, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. © 2018 Getty Images

SLIDING SPORTS: If there are ideal conditions for a hot Winter Olympic competition it’s a hard and fast sliding track and that’s exactly what a week of below freezing temperatures will produce.

Australia’s skeleton and bobsleigh athletes have hit the PyeongChang 2018 sliding venue for the first unofficial training today and all reports have come back positive about the Alpensia Sliding Centre.

Men’s 2-man and 4-man bobsleigh pilot, Lucas Mata said the freezing temperatures in PyeongChang will separate the boys from the men when the Olympic sliding events kick off.  

“Track was a very different beast today compared to the last time we were on it, in October 2017, the weather has been super cold making the ice really hard and slick,” Mata said after his first slide of his second Olympic campaign.

“This makes the track a lot faster. So, navigating some of the turns today was a little difficult.

“In saying that we had some really good downtime’s and speeds today so that is a good sign that our equipment is good here.”

Sochi 2014 Olympian Mata had the chance to test the track in the 2-man sled with teammates and Olympic debutants Lachlan Reidy and Hayden Smith.

The four Aussie bobsleigh athletes, or “bobbas”, moved into the Athlete’s Village on Monday night and Mata said it’s been an exciting feeling for the quad.

“It’s always a special time at the Olympics, whether it’s watching or competing.

“It has that awesome vibe to it that is hard to explain without being here. I am super proud of what we are doing here as a team and very excited on the next couple of weeks.”

Also donning a brand new Olympic race suit was female skeleton athlete, Jackie Narracott, who is making her Olympic debut at the 2018 Games.

“It’s really good to be back at the track,” Narracott said.

“The best thing is everything feels normal, not anything crazy even though it’s the Olympics. That is a great feeling.”

26-year-old Narracott, who’s uncle Paul was the first Aussie to compete at a Summer and Winter Games, echoed that the track had a slightly different feel to the trial run.

“The track feels good. Some corners feel easier and some feel like they did back at the test event last March.”

The Queenslander laid down a super quick first run which was close to a season best performance and then a much slower, slightly frustrating second run.

“It’s nice to be within touching distance even though my push start was average. 

“It’s all learning at this point. This is the time to make mistakes. The more I do it in training hopefully the less likely I will do it in competition.”

Narracott’s male counterpart, John Farrow also hit the track for unofficial training and the pair will now focus on their weights programs and sprinting for the few next days, as well as marching in the Opening Ceremony.

While Narracott said it mostly feels like business as usual, there is a slight extra sprinkling of Olympic flavour.

“Starting to see everyone around makes the Olympics feel real. Particularly at the start of the track where there’s never normally anyone - it’s cool.”

To round out the trio of sliding sports, Alex Ferlazzo, Australia’s luge athlete, will have his first official training session tonight and will be the first Aussie sliding athlete in action on Day 1 of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Bobsleigh begins on Day 7 (16 February), skeleton on Day 3 (12 February) and Luge on Day 1 (10 Feb).

Ashleigh Knight

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