No rest for the weary, or Kimber Gabryszak
February 17, 2012
There’s never really a dull moment for Kimber Gabryszak.
When she’s in Park City, she wakes up at 5 a.m. and begins her pre-dawn workout session. When 8 a.m. rolls around, she’s on her way to her job at the Summit County Courthouse.
Around 5 p.m., once the workday is over, she hops into her car and heads to the Utah Olympic Park, where she trains on the bobsled and skeleton track.
A 31-year-old Alaskan turned Parkite, Gabryszak is a full-time World Cup skeleton athlete, and a full-time planner for the county. She just wrapped up her second season on the World Cup team, where she said she had a whirlwind season.
A nagging hamstring injury, suffered in just her second World Cup race of the season, hasn’t stopped her from progressing. She had her best finish of her career on the World Cup career in St. Moritz on Jan. 12, when she finished seventh overall.
"It was a season of ups and downs," she said from her office Thursday morning. "It has definitely been a crazy year."
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After starting her skeleton career in 2005, Gabryszak has gradually inserted herself into the World Cup discussion with her improving performances. After moving from the America’s Cup circuit to the Europa Cup and then to the Intercontinental Cup, Gabryszak finally qualified for her first World Cup during the 2010-2011 season, where she had four top-16 finishes, plus a bronze-medal performance at the 2011 National Championships.
This year, she said, was better yet.
"I had some better results. I had my first top-10 finish in St. Moritz," she said. "My previous best was 14th. I also had some really difficult races. But, overall, it was better."
However, next season Gabryszak, the third-ranked woman in the U.S. program, faces the prospect of losing her place on the World Cup team.
Each season, the top four countries on the skeleton circuit earn three World Cup spots apiece for their men’s and women’s teams. This season, the Stars & Stripes were battling Russia for the fourth spot. If the Americans fell behind Russia, they’d lose two sleds one men’s and one women’s on the World Cup circuit.
Late in the season the Russians passed the Americans, which means that next season the U.S. team can enter only two men’s and two women’s sleds in World Cup events.
"Next year, we’re going to have to try and do well enough to get back our top spot and re-enter the top nations," she said. "It’s all political and points calculations."
In the meantime, for Gabryszak to race in the World Cup in 2012-13, she must earn one of her team’s top two places.
That means 5 a.m. training sessions are obvious choices, plus sliding and tweaking her technique at the Utah Olympic Park each night after work. The track closes for the winter season in March, so Gabryszak said she plans on taking advantage of every opportunity.
"The goal right now is to train really hard in the summer," she said. "When I’m at the track, I’m pushing and working on my sled. I will be sliding as much as I can.
"(In the offseason) we can actually try things; on the circuit, you have just six runs to try things. You just need to find the best one as quickly as possible. Now is the time to try different sled setups to be ready for next year."
Gabryszak was asked if there’s a specific goal she has in mind for next season.
"We’re expecting to be on the World Cup team again," she said. "The goal for next year is to be consistently (among) the top 2 to 5 sleds, so we can try and earn our third spot."
Does she ever get tired of pushing the gas pedal to the floor?
"It’s definitely not easy," she said. "It’s one of those things where, if you had a job while you were in college and you look back on it now and wonder how you did it, it’s just like that. It just tends to work itself out."