Hollingsworth enters Sochi Olympics with added perspective

Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth puts on her helmet for a women's skeleton training run at the Sanki...

Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth puts on her helmet for a women's skeleton training run at the Sanki Sliding Center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 11, 2014. (FABRIZIO BENSCH/Reuters)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:23 PM ET

GORKI, RUSSIA - In Turin she made a point of enjoying the Olympic show, and with some carefree sliding to match that attitude, captured a bronze medal.

Four years later, Mellisa Hollingsworth went from gold-medal favourite to fifth-place flameout in the women's skeleton competition at the Vancouver Olympics.

So what awaits at Sochi 2014 for the veteran slider from Airdre, Alta. this week?

For starters, Hollingsworth isn't going to offer up a bold prediction like the one prior to her crushing disappointment at the Whistler Sliding Centre, a sloppy effort that left her in tears and apologizing to a nation. Earlier in the week, the personable Albertan had brashly declared she was going all out for gold.

This time, Hollingsworth hopes the past Olympic experiences can be parlayed into success in Sochi. And at age 33, it's pretty clear this will be her final opportunity for another medal at the pinnacle of her sport

As for where she expects to finish after two runs Thursday and two more for the medal 24 hours later? Best not to go there.

"No numbers, I've already done that in my past and it never works out for you," Hollingsworth said this week, clearly referring to the crushing letdown she felt four years ago. "My expectations for myself are to have four consistent pushes, four consistent runs. If I can do that with minimum error, because there's no such thing as a perfect run, I expect a good result."

She certainly would appear capable of a good result, too. In training here this week Hollingsworth has had some decent efforts and has said she likes the course.

Hollingsworth credits her strong recent form to the work she's put in to develop a stronger start, an obvious key in any sliding sport.

"Coming into these Olympics, I'm the strongest and the fastest that I've ever been with my push and the most consistent that I've been with my sliding in actual World Cup and World Championship performances," she said. "I feel very confident and excited to be at these Games."

Hollingsworth's legacy in the sport was cemented eight years ago in Turin when she became the first Canadian to claim an Olympic medal in skeleton. Her time in the head-first sliding event goes much further back than that, however, including the inaugural word championship in 2000.

Now, as a three-time Olympian, she's able to add some perspective to the experience of each.

"There's a huge difference," Hollingsworth said. "All three Olympic Games that I've attended, there's a different vibe. Obviously (Turin) was my first experience so I was very hungry and focussed and excited and giddy. I was also naive in a sense, which was a blessing.

"The Vancouver Games was all business and I didn't realize how much business it was until I got here (to Russia). To be in the Olympic Village and be in our room and be a part of the energy with this team ... it allows me to realize how great and how much of a blessing this is."

In rationalizing the Vancouver miscue, Hollingsworth diminishes the possibility of a mental breakdown, saying she made a tactical error by focusing too much on one turn.

That said, she was sitting in second place heading into her final run and, perhaps by going too hard for gold, ended up off the podium entirely.

"Right now I'm the most confident I've ever been in my set up, knowing I'm on the right sled, there's no questions, no looking over my shoulder wondering," Hollingsworth said. "I'm the strongest and fastest I've ever been.

"But it's the Olympics, that's what I've learned about the Olympics, you don't bet on an Olympics."

She has four-year-old scars to prove it.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/longleysunsport

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