KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Chemmy Alcott took it as a good sign after an Olympic downhill training run Friday that there was pain in her right leg — the one she's broken three times, the one held together by a 15-inch (38-centimeter) nail.
"The better I ski, the more I feel the metal in my knee," Britain's only female Alpine ski racer at the Sochi Games explained. "So when I get down to the bottom, and I can feel my knee, I'm like, 'Yes!'"
Alcott finished the second downhill practice session in 1 minutes, 45.89 seconds, 3.19 slower than leader Fabienne Suter of Switzerland, and 36th of 54 starters.
But precisely where she stacked up against other competitors wasn't what mattered to the 31-year-old Alcott, really.
"I'm really, really proud when I think of what I've been through to get here," she said. "At the same time, now that I'm here, I've got important things to do."
So, yes, she wants to fare well. Yes, she wants to ski her best. Yes, she wants to push herself and, as she explained, "It's not like I'm here just to be one of the numbers."
At the same time, Alcott recognizes there are limits to what she can achieve, given how little pre-Olympic preparation she had before heading to Russia.
In August, she injured that troublesome right leg during preseason training and only was able to return to racing last month.
"My goals are quite emotional goals right now — building confidence, and obviously, I haven't had much race experience coming into this. ... It's just about going out there and knowing that I've done everything," she said. "To ask myself to get near the results I achieved before on great preparation would be near-impossible."
She finished 11th in the downhill at the 2006 Turin Games, the best Olympic performance by a British woman in Alpine skiing since 1968.
Then Alcott turned in another 11th-place result in the super-combined at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Because Britain's ski team doesn't have a downhill squad, Alcott has paid her own way this season, raising more than 30,000 pounds ($50,000) through auctions and personal sponsors. And she has been working with the Norwegian team in Sochi, even getting scouting reports from other racers.
Alcott intends to enter the downhill portion of Monday's first Olympic women's Alpine event, the super combined, for extra training, but she'll skip the slalom run. Instead, she'll compete in the two speed races, the downhill and super-G.
All on that leg, the one that tends to hurt when Alcott is giving her all on the slopes.
"I call it my 'hero leg' now, because so many people know about my leg, and they're like, 'How's your poor leg?' And I'm like, 'It's not a 'poor leg,' it's a 'hero leg,'" Alcott said. "This leg ... keeps battling on."
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