“As I stood in the gates before the start of a race, I would close my eyes and center myself. Then I would open my eyes, and my eyes would be huge and glowing, just like in the movie Avatar. I would be a super-human version of myself.”
Langely McNeal, World Cup and X-games professional ski cross competitor, revealed this pre-race visualization to a sports psychologist on the U.S. Ski Team.
“Weird” was the diagnosis; but Langely was encouraged to do it if it worked. Making absolutely sure that her training techniques were successful was of no small importance to Langely, as she risked her life every time she hit the ski cross course. Ski cross is an event where four skiers start in the gates at the same time, racing against each other to finish first as they hit jumps, waves and high-banked turns, similar to a motocross course covered with snow. The big air and table-top jumps can mean serious injury or death, given that you are flying 150 feet above ground and hopefully landing on your skis at speeds you reach in a car on a highway.
“I bond with my skis and poles in the same way that the Na’vi warriors bond with their banshee mounts,” Langely described to me as she explained her pre-start visualization ritual.
I thought about the scene from Avatar where protagonist Jake (in his avatar form) creates a neural bond with his Banshee so that both rider and animal can move with power, grace and super-human and animal skill through the skies. Langely also locked in before a race, but not with a banshee. She would visualize becoming one with her skis and her poles. She needed this connection with her equipment to perform at what does appear to be a super-human level.
“The avatar visualization is the way that I channel my fear. You can let fear overcome you and weaken you, or you can turn it into something that makes you strong. When I open my huge, cat-like eyes as an avatar before a race, I feel tingles throughout my body, and I know I can do it. The gates open, and I go!”
Here is a video from Langely’s GoPro that makes me feel superhuman. Enjoy.
Engage fully, soar like a banshee.