Sarah Blizzard’s 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics grit

Date: 10th February 2022

By Melanie Whelan, Ballarat Courier

ALTERNATE was not the label Sarah Blizzard wanted next to her name.

Blizzard says she knows she is ready and capable to hit the ice with the Australian Olympic women’s bobsleigh team and, while disappointed, knows “everything happens for a reason”. Her wild ride is far from over.

Blizzard will wear the green-and-gold as a member of the Australian Olympic Team, for its Winter Games campaign in Beijing.

That in itself is an incredible achievement for the 25-year-old and while it might seem a little bittersweet, this is an athlete with a proven record in resilience and pure persistence.

The Ararat export is a four-time Stawell Women’s Gift 120-metre finalist.

Blizzard was a key, young driver in pushing for prizemoney parity to make her almost-hometown Gift the nation’s richest female footrace. Her Canberra stablemate Mel Breen, Australia’s fastest female, was also a leading voice in the revolution.

With more money, comes more high-quality contenders and Blizzard made the final four consecutive years – 2014 to 2017 – each final narrowing her mark by the next Easter. Blizzard was runner-up to Ballarat’s Grace O’Dwyer in 2015, the Easter a $40,000 purse was introduced – so close to having her name etched in Stawell walk of fame history.

It was her performances in Stawell that sparked an invitation for Blizzard to take her game to the ice.

Australia subbed a self-funded women’s bobsleigh team for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Jana Pittman, the first Australian woman to compete in Summer and Winter Olympics, voiced her outrage at the time for a sport that needs coverage to survive.

“We need track-and field athletes on the brink of Olympic level but don’t quite make it to transfer sports,” Pittman said. “They do that when they see the Australian bobsled team competing at the Olympics.”

Blizzard’s tale so far shows how athletes can reinvent themselves and keep taking their games to the next level – even when the dream takes a detour. This goes for all sports, not just sprinters seeking to sled like Blizzard and Pittman.

There have been Cool Runnings type moments for Blizzard whose Australian-based power training has included her pushing a car with her dad inside at the wheel during the pandemic.

 Amusing as this might seem, anyone who has stood at the top of the run in Calgary where Cool Running‘s Jamaican bobsled team slid in 1988 can truly sense why this is not a sport for the feint-hearted.

Blizzard was sidelined with concussion at the start of this season and came back to push a personal best in her second race. In the end, a bout of COVID-19 before New Year’s cost Blizzard a spot in the two-women sled but she managed a negative test in time for a final race to secure a call to Beijing.

Blizzard’s improvement in power and speed from her Gift days is impressive. She is ready for anything and anything could happen in Beijing.

As Cool Runnings’ Sanka says, “I’m feeling very Olympic today, how ’bout you?” Hopefully we get a Blizzard.

Reproduced with kind permission from the Ballarat Courier.

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