“When I come to the start line, all my worries disappear."
The 28-year-old Ukrainian medal machine Olena Iurkovska has gone to Finland for the final stages of preparation for the Nordic Skiing World Cup which begins in Sjusjoen, Norway on 9 December.
At the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games she finished with one gold, three silver and one bronze medal in both Biathalon and Cross Country sit-skiing events.
“This year I want to improve my results,” she said. “I will do my best to be on the podium several times this year.”
Iurkovska is likely to face stiff competition in both Biathlon and Cross Country races from her teammate Lyudmyla Pavlenko and Germany’s Andrea Eskau.
She plans to race in all events, and has been tweaking her training and equipment in the hope it will put her ahead of the game.
“I’ve begun to have more training and more tough training. I’ve also changed my skis and ski equipment which is also making a big difference in my performance.
“But it will take some time to get used to the equipment and it remains to be seen if I use it at the World Cup,” said Iurkovska, whose legs were amputated at the age of three after a severe bout of chicken pox.
Having competed in three Winter Paralympics already and picked up a whole horde of medals, the pressure is mounting for her to maintain her performance.
“I used to be calmer, but now there’s more pressure because everyone is expecting excellent results from me, so there’s more responsibility,” she admitted.
Iurkovska says her experience over other competitors can be both a blessing and a curse.
“Many new competitors are coming to competitions very fresh. It’s easier for them because sometimes when you are so experienced, you have a lot of thoughts about your performance. That’s why it’s easier to compete if you’re a new athlete.”
Despite all these thoughts and pressures, when it comes to the crunch, Iurkovska says she is able to clear her mind before a race.
“When I come to the start line, all my worries disappear,” she said.