PAULA Walker finally gets to compete at Sochi today when her World Cup campaign comes to an end.
The Great Britain number one pilot from Blackburn has spent nearly two weeks at the Russian track – the venue for next year’s Winter Olympics.
But for Walker, 26, there is nothing better than getting down to racing, especially on a new track with new challenges.
“I can’t wait,” said the former St Bede’s High School pupil. “It will be the first time we can see how people actually do as training is sometimes smoke and mirrors.
“It’s the first time here for me, the track is different as it has a lot of uphill sections which means any mistakes and you’re a goner as there is no chance to speed back up.”
Walker, who is currently ninth in the overall standings with brakeswoman Gillian Cooke, has made good use on the extra week’s training.
“The track is great, we have been working hard to try and get as much info as we can testing a lot of things, some which have worked and some that haven’t,” added the corporal in the Royal Signals.
Today’s race will give competitors a chance to put down a bit of a marker ahead of next year’s Winter Olympics – and Walker will also be out to make an impression.
She said: “It will give you an indication of who picked up the track the quickest but not necessarily the people who will be winning next year. But it will certainly give an insight of what is to come.”
And a decent result will help Walker, who has been struggling with a knee injury, get over a disappointing World Championships in St Moritz where she finishing in a lowly 14th position.
“I was very disappointed but St Moritz has never been a good track for me and that coupled with my injury hampered us a little,” she said. “But I will seek redemption here where it matters.”