Sprinter goes for the long haul
Olympic skeleton racer Katharine Eustace is tackling the Defiance.
Once upon a time, if you blinked you would miss Olympian Katharine Eustace as she whizzed past at more than 100 kilometres an hour on a skeleton sled.
Now you might have to zoom in on her with binoculars from the top of a mountain if you want to see her in her new sport of adventure racing.
The 39-year-old physiotherapist has returned to a passion she abandoned more than seven years ago to pursue her ice track dreams. She has teamed up with Wanaka builder Kris Mayen, 35, to tackle the two-day Red Bull Defiance Adventure Race in Wanaka at Labour Weekend.
After years of sprint training she is enjoying the change of pace.
‘‘It’s longer! And harder! After four seconds of sprinting and then lying down I’ve gone to six hours of biking and running uphill and downhill. It’s multi-disciplinary. I’m working with a team. It is probably the furthest apart two sports you could get,’’ she said.
Eustace has not called time on skeleton racing but is keen to save some money this year and review her winter sports strategy.
‘‘It is nice to be racing on my back doorstep against other world-class athletes. Maybe it is not the end of skeleton racing. Just a break,’’ she said.
Although they have known each other for years, it is the first time Eustace and Mayen have raced together.
They’ve called themselves Canterbury Biltong for this weekend, in honour of the company which has given them a large consignment of beer sticks to chew on while racing.
Mayen said when they race the Godzone next year, they’ll be adopting the name of an extinct bird – the Haast Eagles – unless they find more sponsors.
Mayen took up multisport five years ago after breaking his back in a skiing accident.
‘‘This surgeon told me I had to start swimming so I did the Challenge in a team. The next year I decided to do the Challenge by myself. Then I decided Challenge was boring,’’ he said.
He teamed up with Eustace’s partner Simon Bowden for the 24-hour race in Cromwell for the last couple of years and was chuffed when they finished second in the open men’s race last year.
Mayen first raced the Godzone last year in a team of four and despite one team-mate pulling out through illness, his team was able to continue and complete the course.
While adventure sport is not usually very spectator friendly, due to the terrain, the Red Bull Defiance is different in that there will be opportunities to see the athletes from public roads. Racing finishes in the centre of town on both days.
Tough team: Olympian skeleton racer Katharine Eustace of Wanaka has teamed up with Wanaka builder Kris Mayen for a crack at the two day Red Bull Defiance Adventure Race this weekend. What: Red Bull Defiance Adventure Race Where: Wanaka and surrounds When: Friday and Saturday Total prize pool: $40,000 How many: Athletes, 80 (40 teams of 2); volunteers, 50 a day; kilometres, 153.25 More info: redbulldefiance.co.nz