Laura Deas column: 'Fresh challenge after a long, tough season'

Laura Deas in action at the World Championships
Laura Deas finished 10th at the 2017 World Championships in Konigssee

I'm writing from the team apartment in Pyeongchang, venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

We're here for the very first time to test out the new skeleton track and see what the venue has to offer and do vital prep work for when the team comes back to compete next year.

Each time a new Olympic venue is completed, there is a process of checking its safety and suitability for competition called 'homologation', where a select number of athletes are invited to try it out for the first time.

Some athletes were selected by random draw across the international field and those lucky few came here last year when things were much less finished to try out the track.

That completed successfully, the next stage is to hold a test event, which for skeleton is this year's final World Cup round.

Alpensia Sliding Centre, Pyeongchang
Alpensia Sliding Centre, Pyeongchang, which will be used at the 2018 Winter Olympics

The venue is looking great, almost finished and very clean and well presented. There are always small teething issues when everything's new as you might expect, but the organisers are helpful and doing their best to put on a great event.

The track is unique, with corner trajectories that have never been seen before, a long push start and technical questions all the way down.

There's no kreisel here (a 360 degree corner), but plenty of other challenges from the moment you jump on the sled to the finish line.

The longer your career as a slider, the fewer times you get to experience sliding a new track for the first time as they are only now built at new Olympic venues once every four years.

Obviously learning new tracks is a fairly common occurrence as a beginner when you first start competing and travelling, and at that time feeling out of your comfort zone almost becomes second nature as brand new scenarios are thrown at you constantly.

Laura Deas in action at the World Championships
Laura Deas won World Cup gold in the opening race of the 2015-16 season.

What makes this trip so unusual is that everyone on the international tour is experiencing being presented with a new track at the same time, so it's fascinating to see how people and teams approach getting to know it and getting over those fears of being at the start of a learning curve again.

I'm loving having a completely fresh challenge after a long, tough season of competing, and it's reminding me why I love the sport.

We came straight to Pyeongchang from the World Championships in Konigssee, Germany.

I left with real mixed feelings of how it had gone. On the one hand I had my best ever result at that track, 10th, but I was really hoping for better given that it was the most important race of the season.

I can't be disappointed with how I slid, I was consistent under pressure and finished seven places higher than in the World Cup there a few weeks previously.

Also, my strongest heat was cancelled when snow started to fall with only half the competitors having slid.

I always want races to be as fair as possible, but there's also an element of luck that comes with competing in an outdoor sport, and I've definitely felt the tough end of that this season on more than one occasion.

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So, when the heat that saw me jump several spots in the order was called off it was tough to come back and refocus for the second day of competition.

I still managed to climb three spots the second day, but I finished feeling very deflated that my best hadn't been good enough.

When you put all your energy and focus into something and it doesn't come off the way you hope, you can't help feeling that you've let down everyone around you who has worked so hard to get you there.

I'm just hoping that I'm saving all my luck for next season, and in the meantime learning as much as I can on the new Olympic track.

The final World Cup round is here in a week's time, so it'll be challenging to go back into competition mode one more time before the summer break.

But I'll definitely be looking for a strong result to round off the season and lay down a marker for next year.

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