Team Harte Racing Athlete, Natalia Harte reflects on the winter season 12/13.

Looking back on the season overall I am pleased with how it went. This year we spent the winter out in the Aosta Valley, Italy again but with a few changes since last year. Unfortunately, we only had part time coach this year as he had work commitments that meant he had to return to the UK each week, leaving us with limited coaching for the winter season. Arriving in Aosta, we were not sure how things would turn out but luckily the Aosta ski club were very supportive, having trained alongside them for many years .

The first half of my season did not go to plan and in the December and January races I struggled to obtain the maximum speed out of both my skiing and my equipment when racing. We spent a lot of time working on my approach to races during January and with the arrival of February my performances in races started to improve rapidly. I achieved some satisfactory results mid season, winning races in Italy and France in every discipline except Super G. I was really happy with the way my skiing developed over the season continually improving in both technical and tactical ways. I was particularly happy with the improvement in my tactical skiing and feel I am close to unlocking a significant amount of speed now moving into my Summer of technical training which will allow me to move into the next level of performance for next season with the new ski regulations.

Coming into the end of the season we arrived at the British Championships in Meribel and I felt confident in my skiing but I had no expectations relating to results. I knew that I had to focus on what I have been doing all season and since the Championships were held in Meribel, I was just looking forward to skiing speed on the World Cup piste! I very was disappointed that the speed races stopped above the final pitch on the main stade as this is where I feel I make up a lot of time on my rivals. The races themselves were riddled with mistakes from me which meant the times achieved in both the downhill and Super G races fell short of what I could have achieved. However, I still managed to obtain the British Junior Downhill Champion title and recorded the fastest time on the World cup Downhill piste for these championships. For me, the speed disciplines are the most enjoyable however I have been enjoying the technical disciplines more and more as my performances have improved this season so in a way I was sad that the speed disciplines had come to an end but was looking forward to the following few days of Technical races. However as we moved on to them I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after 5 days of speed skiing, my legs were feeling tired but my spirit was more than willing so to have received 2nd place in both slalom races was a nice result. This was tinged with irritation in the 2nd slalom race as my second run included a significant mistake which could have cost me the win and the British Junior Title. After all the effort I had put in to prevent these errors creeping in to the races, I was a little disappointed with myself for letting it happen. The GS race did not go well for me as I was on the 9th day of racing and the fatigue was settling into my muscles badly but I still gave it everything I had and unfortunately my skiing wasn’t anywhere near what I am capable of producing so results were very disappointing.

Now the season is over it is time for some well earned rest and it’s back to England for dry land training for the summer but also back to work for me. I am fortunate to be able to train and compete for four months during the winter but summer marks a return to normal life working whilst undergoing a gruelling dry land fitness regime. Summer training is aimed at increasing overall fitness and strength whilst skiing development is limited to a weekend per month in Holland or the glaciers of the alps. I would like to say a huge thank you to Marks and Spencer’s for continuing to support me by continuing to employ me during the 8 months off season training in England.

Last year, Giulia unfortunately tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament in her knee; this meant that she spent the summer recovering from surgery and regaining some of the muscle bulk lost due to the post operative rehabilitation process. It also meant she lost valuable technical development in her skiing as summer time is when we do most of our technical skiing development. Luckily for her the surgery was very successful and she returned to ski training only 5 months after surgery. This was helped by her determination and drive to return to skiing as quickly as possible but also driven by the fact that her sister returned from each of the weekends skiing talking about the development work she had been missing out on. She returned to racing in December with her goals limited to recovering confidence and improving her technical skiing through the season. As most people who have experienced this type of injury know, the physical healing is only part of the recovery process for an athlete, the psychological healing is very much part of the process. The psychological part is mostly responsible for the time it takes athletes returning from injury to regain a full level of performance which normally averages around 12 months. Giulia feels her season was successful after only 4 months returning to competition she was able to equal her performances pre injury and feels that she now goes into the Summer Technical Training season and Dry land training season able to regain the ground she lost to her peers.