How Alexandra Burghardt got to two Olympics in six months

YANQING, China – Alexandra Burghardt dresses up her new Winter Olympics in a hotel a few miles from the snowmobile track. It was two weeks before her debut at the Beijing Olympics.

“Sometimes I feel like a double agent,” she said. “Two lives to handle.”

In August, Burghardt ran the 100 meters in the blazing heat of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Now, six months later, she finds herself in sub-zero temperatures in China, preparing to skate in the Winter Olympics.

And on Saturday night in Yanqing, she found herself with a silver medal around her neck, standing on a podium with teammate and sled pilot, Mariama Jamanka.

She joins a long line of sprinters, snowmobilers, and runners with explosive speed and power on the track that can turn to ice. But this summer-to-winter Olympic battle is extremely serious. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and will be held in July and August 2021, six months before the start of the Beijing Olympics. Burghardt is one of the few athletes to have competed in both – two Olympics in less than a year.

For Burghardt, that change is even more disorienting, as she doesn’t even think about competing in a Winter Olympics until September.

Germany’s snowmobile racing federation has long flirted with Burghart, 27, one of Germany’s fastest sprinters, hoping she could be the latest athletics star to help the team sled won the gold medal. “We all know her,” said Rene Spies, head coach of the German snowmobile team.

She politely declined for years. “Oh yes, the German snowmobile federation has been wanting that for a long time,” said Burghardt. “I’m pretty tall and quick and that’s exactly what they need in a good brake, but I want to start with my actual sport first and try to get the best out of me before I start. a new adventure.”

After failures and injuries for most of her career, she has reached new heights in the past year. She made it to the German Olympic team and achieved the fastest 100 meters time in the month before the Tokyo Olympics: 11.01 seconds.

In Tokyo, she ran in the women’s 4×100 meters final, in which the German finished fifth. She also advanced to the semi-finals of the 100 meters with a time of 11.07 seconds.

“Tokyo has become a childhood dream come true,” says Burghardt. “Then there was this opportunity with Beijing, and I wanted to try, and here we are.”

Burghardt’s progress from trying to become an Olympic team was particularly rapid. Kaysha Love, another sprinter turned toboggan who has traveled briskly to these Olympics, touched at least one sled before last year.

In 2018, a skate coach contacted Love’s athletics coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to express interest. The first time she entered the skate game was in November 2020. The experience, she said, was scary, but it reinforced one goal: She would make it to the Olympic team. She finished her season and turned her full attention to toboggan racing in July 2021.

“The ultimate goal is always the Olympics,” Love said. “Best I know I’m a decent person. I know I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m not afraid to put in more effort.”

Now she is very reputable. She was selected as the female brake for the US Olympic team and finished in seventh place with Kaillie Humphries, monobob gold medal winner. Love had ambitions to learn to sled after the Olympics.

Burghardt was more skeptical at first, agreeing to train for toboggan only if she could continue working with her sprint coach and return to the track full-time as soon as she left China. .

But she enjoyed skateboarding on her first run – a promising sign for Spies, the German coach, who says many runners get sick on their first run due to a combination of speed and pressure. Burghardt’s technique wasn’t great, he said, but she managed to improve on her next run. She was added to the World Cup squad two days later.

“I really don’t have time to go down,” says Burghardt of the rapid transition. “I’m just riding on this cloud.”

Her growth was so impressive that she was paired with Jamanka, the 2018 gold medal defender.

The partnership went quite well. They were trailed only by Laura Nolte and Deborah Levi, also from Germany, who won gold in the two-woman cyclist. Elena Meyers Taylor of USA added a fifth Olympic medal to her collection, finishing with a bronze medal alongside her teammate, Syliva Hoffman.

Burghardt is debating whether to race in the German indoor track that meets a week after these Olympics. She also looks forward to getting back on track with her coach in Switzerland in March, and then training camp in April. Then, she excitedly said, the season starts in May.

“This is also a very important year for the track, with world championships and European championships,” she said.

“Then,” she said with a smile, “I will need a lot of rest.” How Alexandra Burghardt got to two Olympics in six months

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