WHISTLER (Reuters) - Mellisa Hollingsworth speeds like lightning and has a horse skull painted on her helmet but it is the power of the humble ant that could fire her to gold in the Olympic women’s skeleton starting on Thursday.
The Canadian and her team mates visited a shaman in British Columbia last September and after making totem poles and discovering their animal spirits within she has enjoyed a phenomenal season, winning the World Cup title with seven podiums from eight races.
“It was awesome, a great getaway weekend,” the free-spirited country girl from Alberta, who rides bucking broncos and calls her sledge White Lightning, told reporters after setting yet another fastest time in training.
“A lot of it has to do with getting to know yourself, flushing away all the crap inside of you and having peace. You learn more about your soul and spirit.
“We were in search of our power animals and that was kind of a unique experience. We were lying on the ground and meditating and I had all these ants crawling all over me.
“I’m trying not to move and I don’t want to disturb the rest of my team. Then I got thinking about how strong an ant is, how hard they work and the family unit and I guess that’s what my power animal is.”
Team mate Jon Montgomery, who was fastest in men’s training, was equally inspired after discovering his power animal.
He now sports a turtle painted on his helmet alongside the thunderbird that according to the native population of British Columbia known as the Haida lives on Blackcomb Mountain where the Whistler Sliding Center is located.
“The thunderbird’s a powerful animal and one of their most prized symbols,” Montgomery said. “I thought it would be good to pay respect to that and honor the people here and have my spirit animal guide me down the track.”
Michael Douglas, who will also start with high hopes of a medal on Thursday, decided against adorning his helmet with an animal motif but hopes his power animal will be galloping alongside him down Whistler.
“It was great team retreat,” he said. “We all had our sleds blessed and wrote our names on a totem pole. My spirit animal was a horse. I’m a big fan of the Kentucky Derby and I see myself as the dark horse for the Olympics.”
Editing by Ed Osmond