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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Science of skiing

By Anna Thompson

Chemmy Alcott
Alcott in action at last season's World Cup finals

Learning to juggle and swivel your hips with a hoola-hoop may not seem the most conventional way to reach the pinnacle of your sport.

But British skier Chemmy Alcott is convinced it will help her achieve her goal of Olympic medal success.

And she is ready to put it to the test with the opening race of the World Cup season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

She told BBC Sport: "I haven't felt this good going into a season for a long time which is great."

Alcott has spent the summer undergoing physical and mental tests and training in Austria, Argentina and Britain in an attempt to break into the world's top 10.

The 25-year-old had a breakthrough season last year when she halved her world ranking despite coming to terms with the death of her mother.

Anna T - BBC Sport

Alcott also missed pre-season because she underwent foot surgery.

"I only had eight days skiing before the first race so we had no gauge where we were at. I was quite surprised by how well things went."

She is currently ranked 32nd in the world overall - 21st in giant slalom, 27th in downhill and 33rd in super-G.

But she is hoping for much more this season and revealed that a chat with Sir Clive Woodward - the British Olympic Association's performance director - opened her eyes to the science of the sport.

"I thought I was doing everything an elite athlete can do but Sir Clive broadened my horizons, mentioned there were other things I could do to become the best and he told me to look outside the box," she said.

Woodward meticulously planned England's triumph in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and provided players with an abundance of experts to call upon.

Chemmy Alcott
Best Olympic result: 12th 2006 downhill
Best World Cup result: 7th, combined, Reiteralm 2007
Best World Champs result: 19th, downhill 2005

And Alcott has managed to secure extra funding to be able to employ people to analyse her skiing as well as her diet, health and well-being. Everything from sleep patterns to what she was eating and when.

"I felt as though I was in a Big Brother box this summer. The guys in the team now know everything about me they need to know!" she said.

"It's just making the most of what I eat and when I eat it and knowing what supplements I need to take."

Alcott admitted she had not taken any supplements, including vitamins, for years since colleague Alain Baxter was stripped of his Olympic bronze after the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Scot failed a drugs test when an American version of a Vicks nasal inhaler contained a trace of a banned substance not found in the British version.

Alcott said: "With Alain's scare a few years ago, I've been very much an extremist with what I consume, I was paranoid about what would happen."

Another area Alcott has focused on is her feet.

She has had to learn to feel them again as before having foot surgery in 2006, she had to switch off the pain while racing.

I think there's a natural progression you aim to make every year and with three years until the next Olympics I am where I want to be
Chemmy Alcott

It got that bad she could not even tell if she was walking on concrete or grass.

So during the summer, sensors were placed in her boots to help diagnose where the pressure was being exerted.

And along with gym work, which included juggling and hula-hooping, it helped Alcott improve the responses between her brain and her feet.

"It has benefited me massively," she said.

"It's like skiing in colour now as opposed to black and white!"

But the proof will be when she heads out of the start gate on Saturday.

"I came back from Argentina having had a great camp, talking it up everywhere I went but then realised I was putting a lot of pressure on myself," Alcott said.

"But I am physically and mentally ready but we will just have to wait and see how the first races go."

Alcott's main ambition is to be on the podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but she is aiming for another leap up the rankings this season.

"I definitely don't want to end this season in the same position as last season, even though it was amazing.

"I think there's a natural progression you aim to make every year and with three years until the next Olympics I am where I want to be."


Sports psychologists - Simon Timson and Dave Alred
Timson has worked with Alcott for five years and Alred, who is Jonny Wilkinson's kicking coach, will add his expertise to her mental preparation.

Sensory motor skills - Tag Lamche
The former drummer with Ian Dury and the Blockheads is working on improving her ability to perform several physical tasks at once and develop better bilateral control.

Nutrition - Dr Adam Carey
Provides nutrition advice and what to eat and when. He also advises on supplements she can legally use to enhance her intake and matters like sleep.

Performance movement coach - Joanne Elphinston
Elphinston's job is to help Alcott make the physical movements skiing requires.

Physiotherapist - Jeanette Korten
Provides daily physiotherapy and Alcott also appreciates Korten being a friend and confidante.

Doctor - Dr Charlotte Cowie
She advises Alcott on what is required to keep her in top shape.

Athletic development - Dave Reddin
He oversees Alcott's physical training programme. He worked with Sir Clive Woodward on the successful 2003 Rugby World Cup team.

Ski coaches - Gerhard Greber, Philipp Larl, Mark Tilston and Herbi Frankenhauser
Austrian Greber has been working with Alcott for six years, assisted by Larl and overseen by head coach Tilston. They run her training, preparation and skis.

Alcott powers to World Cup best
15 Dec 06 |  Winter Sports
Alcott gives British a ski lift
20 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
Woodward demands Olympic overhaul
08 Oct 07 |  Olympics 2012


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