Defeat devastated Hollingsworth

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — She spent an entire night and almost a full day in bed, yet did not sleep a wink.

But when Day 2 of the rest of her life dawned, Mellisa Hollingsworth decided she wasn’t a loser. She decided that her country really didn’t resent her.

And she decided to move on.

“It was haunting,” Hollingsworth said Sunday, some 36 hours after a sure medal in women’s skeleton slipped away and became a fifth-place finish. “An entire season, an entire career waiting for that moment. I just needed that time to cry out all the tears I had and reflect on things.

“It’s very easy to just want to stay in bed all day and give up.”

Canadians are getting a rough ride here in Whistler for underachieving and, in a lot of cases, it has been justified. Just one medal in the mountains is far below even the most pessimistic of projections.

Hollingsworth was one of the more prominent of those failures, as she came in here as the top-ranked athlete in her sport and had moved into striking position for gold heading into her final run. She had the best start of her career in the final, before pinballing off the walls of the Whistler Sliding Centre.

It’s still too early for answers, if they ever come. But Hollingsworth is determined to move on and is committed to being an Olympian four years from now in Sochi.

“I felt like I really thrived on this challenge,” Hollingsworth said. “I don’t know how to define pressure for everybody, but I just felt so ready.

“The first question I have is why? Why would I have to make a mistake like that at the biggest moment of my career?

“I took that chance and I took that risk. I knew my entire country was behind me and I wanted to do everyone proud. I wanted to stand on top of that podium. I wasn’t ashamed about that goal.”

It’s easy to feel sympathy — the tears flowed again Sunday as she met with the media mere steps from the Medal Plaza where she had hoped to celebrate the previous night. But where Hollingsworth has set herself apart from others is she has no need for excuses.

She claims to have embraced the pressure coming in and had no interest in running from it. And couldn’t the Canadian Olympic team use a few more of those?

“I love this attitude that we have coming into these Games for once, that we are not just excited about being here and participating,” Hollingsworth said. “We were vocal about our goals of owning the podium and we weren’t afraid to share that.

“I had all the confidence in the world. I was excited to be in that position. I hope it changes us as athletes and as a country.”

Hollingsworth admits she is only in the early stages of her catharsis, a journey which began Saturday when she attended the medal ceremony that she had hoped would be her stage.

“I wanted to go as part of the healing process and closure to watch (her competitors) get their medals,” Hollingsworth said. “It was a start. And then to see (Jon Montgomery) get his gold, it made me proud.”

Hollingsworth accepts that some will consider her effort a failure and to a point agrees. But in losing, she became even more proud to be a Canadian.

“I know there are some athletes that if it was their country, they would be crucified and feel ashamed,” Hollingsworth said. “I most definitely do not have that feeling.

“I want to tell Canadians ‘thank-you. Thank-you for being supportive and for your compassion.’”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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