Mellisa Hollingsworth was doing a poor job of fighting back tears, finishing up her media-imposed analysis of what must be one of the worst days of her life—coming a dismal fifth in the women’s skeleton tonight after arriving as a very strong medal favourite—when she was surprised by a most unexpected query.
“Mellisa,” came a voice from the fringes of the scrum. “I have a different type of question for you. Do you still identify with your Estonian roots?” The question came from an older woman surrounded by a group of imposing men. “We are Estonian media,” she explained.
Who knew that Hollingsworth, the 29-year-old who grew up in a rodeo family from Eckville, Alta., was really an Estonian. For a second, Hollingsworth, standing in the cold of the media corral at the Whistler Sliding Centre, didn’t seem to know either.
She had started the evening off behind a couple of imposing Germans and the U.K.’s Amy Williams, after the first two heats last night. But on her sled—built by her cousin Ryan Davenport, a Canadian skeleton legend himself, and called, like a long-shot horse that delivers big on the betting track, White Lightening—Hollingsworth still seemed to have much left in reserve.
She’d had a strong season, destroying any contender on the World Cup circuit and taking seven podium finishes in eight races, along with two gold medals, wearing a helmet emblazoned with the image of a horse’s skull. And here she stood in tears, a bronze winner in Turino with such high hopes for more now left with nothing, those two Germans, a lightning-fast elfin Brit and an American ahead of her.
“Do you still identify with with your Estonian roots?” The Canadian media had dealt with Hollingsworth like fragile crystal, but nothing had prepared her for this. “I’m Canadian,” she said, holding aloft a small Canadian flag.
Then, just as quickly and with no further discussions, Chris Dornan, who handles media for the sliding sports, amongst other things, grabbed her arm and she was gone, striding past a query asked at precisely the wrong time. Down at the end of the press box, where the athletes go alone, Dornan gave her a long hug.