Mirela Rahneva’s mother Valentina died in June at 53 after a 17-year bout with cancer. As the Canadian skeleton racer was in her final months of preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Rahneva reached out to an artist about honoring her mother on her helmet.
What happened was a crazy coincidence. When she got together with the artist she contacted, Shane Haltman, to start to sketch out what the helmet looked like, the pictures Rahneva brought of some street art she liked while browsing for inspiration matched pictures Haltman took of street art when he was in Mexico.
The art, which featured a woman in the shape of a tree, became the centerpiece of the tribute.
“We have on the back of the helmet a little praying warrior, and she’s a tree because I love trees,” Rahneva explained. “They remind me of just being grounded and being rooted. That’s the big one for (my mom) on the back of my head. She’s just always there in the back of my mind.
“On the front is a (white) Canadian moose . . . it’s kind of like a spirit animal. I’d like to think of it as my inner Canadian side. Off on the chin is a Bulgarian rose.
“On the side, there’s a little moon. My mom and I always said, ‘Love you to the moon and back.’ That’s a little tribute to her as well, and a breast cancer ribbon on the other side. There’s a lot going on. There’s the Canadian Rockies in a blue silhouette behind the moose. There’s rose petals flying from the nose backwards. The helmet is just incredible artwork. I’m really, really happy with it.”
Rahneva came with her family to Canada from Bulgaria in 1997. After playing a multitude of other sports, she settled on skeleton, the lesser know and seemingly far-more-dangerous sibling than luge. While lugers slide down the course on their backs feet-first, skeleton racers compete head-first on their stomachs.
PyeongChang is Rahneva’s first Olympic games and comes in her second season as a professional skeleton racer.
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