LONDON, England - Sherlock Holmes is not what one would call a homebody, though he’s often to be found at home. Sitting on a posh leather sofa and surrounded by precarious-looking chemistry equipment, he cuts a striking figure more likely to be seen on the catwalk than on the slopes.
The 35-year-old, now in the twilight of his career, is going to Sochi to compete in his fourth and final Olympic games, where he assures me he intends to take gold. “I’ve just completed one of the best seasons of my career,” he tells me as he adds a heaping scoop of sugar to his tea. “My body is capable, my mind is focused; I’m ready.”
There’s no doubt that Sherlock Holmes has a focused mind, having graduated Cambridge with an advanced degree in chemistry. Holmes began skiing at a very young age on a family trip to the Alps. His parents, both notable cross-country competitors in their time, didn’t want to force their son into the sport, instead letting a young Sherlock discover it on his own. It wasn’t long before he was complaining about the flatness of the cross country scene, and began asking for steep slopes.
“You couldn’t get him off of the skis once he strapped in. Before you knew it we were spending half of the year in Austria so he could train,” his mother, a dynamo in ladies sprints in the 1970s, tells us. “My boy was always a thrill seeker, on the slopes and in his studies. He works very hard, often to the detriment of other areas of his life; I just hope it’s enough to bring him the gold in Sochi.”
Holmes took gold this past March in the downhill at the World Cup, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. When I ask what he thought of the course he rolls his eyes, sips his tea, and leans back, leveling me with what I’m sure he hopes is an intimidating glare. “It’s snow, it’s slope. It’s science. If you know anything about physics there’s nothing to it at all.”
Though Holmes placed first, it was with a meager lead of just .07 seconds. James Moriarty, the leading men’s downhill racer out of Bern is a force to contend with. Also in his fourth Olympics, but with the distinct edge of being younger in years, Moriarty has fired shots at Holmes this past season, commenting on the skier’s age and agility. “I tend not to waste my time thinking about him; he’s nothing to me,” Holmes said following his first place win at Beaver Creek.
We hope Holmes is right. He’s posted faster-than-normal times on his home course and seems more limber than usual, something many seasoned downhill competitors struggle to maintain later in their careers. The International Ski Federation spokesman Gian-Franco Kasper claims that Holmes is one of the most graceful and composed competitors he has ever seen. “Gold is within his grasp for sure, if he keeps his ego in check,” Kasper tells us. “He’s got such command over any course, it’s really quite something.”
The course is Sochi has been said to be one of not only immense difficulty but of immense danger. When I ask Holmes of his level of excitement he tells me only, “I’m ready.”