Michelle Steele relaxes at home after becoming the first Australian to compete in the skeleton event at a Winter Olympic Games.
Michelle Steele relaxes at home after becoming the first Australian to compete in the skeleton event at a Winter Olympic Games.

Rum City never so sweet for Steele

By LEE GASKIN

A BLEAK and overcast day failed to stop the sun shining on Bundaberg's Winter Olympic hero Michelle Steele.

The lightning-fast 19-year-old completed her two-year ice-laden odyssey when she returned to the city yesterday.

Steele captured the hearts of the nation when she braved the treacherous Turin track as she finished 13th in the skeleton.

"The Olympics are like nothing else I've ever experienced,'' Steele said.

"There's nothing that can prepare you for it.

"The whole atmosphere was electric, and you definitely get nervous.''

Billions of viewers worldwide were captivated by the winter spectacle, with the thrills and spills of the luge track a non-stop water-cooler talking point.

Having witnessed first-hand a competitor come to grief, Steele said there no was no doubt in her mind it was the hardest track in the world.

"It's so hectic because there are a lot of vital corners,'' she said.

"You can't afford to lose your focus for even a second.''

Apart from signalling the conclusion of a marvellous 16 days of competition, the closing ceremony lowered the curtain on the Elliott Heads lifesaver's amazing transformation from beach sprinter to world-class slider.

"It was a really big night, especially for myself and Terry (coach Terry Holland),'' Steele said.

"(The ceremony) symbolised the end of the whole journey, from getting picked for the AIS through to getting chosen out of all the Australian girls.

"It was really special and something I'll never forget.''

After such a long time living out of a suitcase, everyday things most of us take for granted, such as a home-cooked meal from mum, are just what the Olympian craves.

"Competing has been the focus for the past six months, so I'm more than ready for a break and to take it easy,'' Steele said.

Despite the last days of summer having just passed, the beach is a welcome sight after months of below freezing temperatures.

"I'm so pale now, I can't wait to work on my tan,'' Steele joked.



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