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Medal race cancelled but Laidlaw still smiling

22 January 2012

Melbourne skier Harry Laidlaw has finished his Winter Youth Olympic Games campaign smiling after finishing 17th out of 62 skiers in the Slalom on Saturday. His second run was even better than his first to finish on a positive note. 

Laidlaw was still happy when told that the finals for Ski Cross on Sunday, where he was fourth fastest qualifier, had been cancelled due to the 70 centimetres of snow and strong winds at Kuhtai.

The reason the 15-year-old wasn’t too disappointed about missing the chance to race head –to-head for a medal was he had got the better of nerves and mistakes in his fourth and final alpine event, which had been his primary focus.

“I’m happy with my second run. It was better than my first and good to get finally get two runs down and a positive result,” Laidlaw said.

“It’s a bummer that we (Jack, Claudia and Harry) don’t get to race the Ski Cross finals but that’s how it goes.”

It had been a tough week in Innsbruck with a disqualification in Super G for straddling a gate, did not finish (DNF) on the first run of his favoured Giant Slalom and a DNF for the Slalom component of Super Combined.

The reason for his improved performance could be thanks to alpine coach Brad Wall trying to relax him before entering the start gate with some forced smiling and really bad jokes.

“We tried it for the first time at Ski Cross and I just made him give me a big fat cheesy (smile) to release some endorphins and trick you into feeling relaxed and happy and it seemed to work and he skied great,” Wall said.

“We recognised at alpine that he’s super nervous in the start and that was clearing effecting how he was skiing.”

“For today I prepared a couple of super cheesy jokes that we had in Christmas crackers. It made him laugh and smile and it seemed to do the job nicely.

Laidlaw agreed it had made a difference.

“I felt better and skied better so I guess it works,” Laidlaw laughed.

He will now wait for Wall to send another ‘50 or so bad jokes’ to his coach in America at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont USA where he will study and train for the next three years to finish high school.

The Youth Olympics for the Australian athletes is all about learning and leaving Innsbruck with plans for future success. Laidlaw whom was a talented AFL player before choosing skiing will aim for future World Juniors and the Olympics in Korea in 2018 is the big goal.

I’m sure there are six year of bad jokes available.

Andrew Reid

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