Braydon Luscombe has been to the Paralympics before, but it’s going to be an entirely different experience this time around. The para-alpine skier from Duncan was a forerunner at the Vancouver Paralympics, testing the course before the competitors used it. He also had the honour of carrying the International Paralympic Committee flag in the opening ceremonies.
In Sochi, however, he’ll be going for gold on the slopes.
"I sort of know the atmosphere, but I don’t know what it’s like as a competitor," he said earlier this month, the day before he was set to leave for Europe. "I’m looking forward to the opening ceremonies, wearing the Team Canada jacket, with hundreds of thousands of people looking at you, all they hype of it."
Luscombe had his leg amputated at the age of four after contracting necrotizing fasciitis – also known as flesh-eating disease. He became a mainstay of the junior national team, then moved up to the senior team in 2011.
Luscombe is already familiar with the slopes at Sochi. In years before the Paralympics, the World Cup finals are held in the location of the next games, so he was in Russia a year ago, and his results from that event bode well for the Paralympics. Luscombe’s best-ever finish on the World Cup was a fifth in the slalom at Sochi, and he thinks he can do even better than that.
"I was really happy with it," he said. "I had two really good runs, but they weren’t the best I could do."
Luscombe could ski in all five events at the Paralympics – the slalom, giant slalom, super G, super combined and downhill.
His best events are the super G, super combined and slalom, but he plans to do the GS for experience. He’s still wavering on the downhill; because he skis with two outriggers – a "three-tracker" – he’s at a disadvantage in that event.
"The downhill is a tough event for us to do well, so I’m thinking about missing the downhill do save my energy for the slalom," he related. "If I can’t do well in it, why risk
it? I’d have to go all out to do well in it."
In the lead-up to Sochi, Luscombe and the rest of Canada’s para-alpine team are competing at the World Cup finals in Italy this week. Luscombe’s recent World Cup results include sixth-place finishes in both the downhill and super combined at Panorama in January.
Luscombe will arrive in Sochi on March 2, and racing begins March 7. On the biggest
stage of his career, he’ll be aiming for top-five results in the slalom, super G and super combined.
"I’m really confident," he said. "I’ll have to have a few really good runs, but I’ll be in there for sure. I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time."
He can’t help but think about being on the podium in Sochi.
"It’s definitely in my mind," he said. "I’m thinking about it a lot. You don’t just go to the Paralympics to finish seventh or eighth and be happy with that. I know in my mind I can do it."
Many of the concerns about Russia not being ready for the Olympics turned out to be unfounded, and Luscombe was impressed with the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort when he was there last year.
"It’s a pretty cool mountain to be at," he said. "They did well with what they had.
They only iffy thing is the weather."
The snow has the potential to be slushy, Luscombe said, but the Canadians have practiced skiing in soft conditions, so they won’t be going in unprepared.
The downhill is scheduled for March 7 at 11:10 p.m. Pacific, followed by the Super G on March 8 at 10:20 p.m., the super combined on March 11 at 12:50 a.m. (first run) and 6:30 a.m. (second run), the slalom on March 13 at 6:15 am. (first run) and 9:10 p.m. (second run), and the giant slalom on March 14 at 11:55 p.m. (first run) and March 15 at 3:20 a.m. (second run).
For updates from Luscombe himself, follow @OneLeggedHustla on Twitter.