Indian racer finishes tough course
SESTRIERE COLLE, Italy – The Olympics were over almost as fast as they began for Neha Ahuja.
The 24-year-old from India was one of the two-thirds of Friday’s giant slalom field to finish the race, but she said a mistake cost her valuable time.
Ahuja, India’s first female to qualify for the Winter Olympics, was the 42nd finisher Friday, starting with bib No. 65.
“I tripped on a bump,” Ahuja said. “I was going to the direction of the gate. If I’d gone more from behind, I would have been able to be in the right line.”
Several racers made the same mistake and slid out or whipped their skis into the gate instead of
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“I got around it, but I lost at least three or four seconds,” she said. “Whatever. I finished. And I’m not last.”
Ahuja was the last to start and the last to finish Wednesday’s slalom race, beaming all the while. On Friday, she beat Brazilian skier Mirella Arnhold, and many others who went down on the course and took a DNF.
“I wish I’d skied a little better,” said Ahuja, whose early racing experience was with Ski Club Vail during her time as an exchange student. “I know I can do it. Making these mistakes are helping me learn. I know I’m not the best.”
Ahuja arrived for the opening ceremony of the Games, leading her four-member team as the flag bearer, before doing some training in Austria and then getting back to Sestriere last weekend.
“After slalom, the next day I was a little nervous. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, GS is coming up,'” she said. “But now GS is over. And I’m glad I finished this course. It was a super difficult course. I can’t believe it’s over.”
Ahuja will return to India for trials to prepare for the Asian Games, and then head over to the U.S. for a short time.