As I mentioned in my It’s Red Cup Day! Hooray! post, I flippin’ love winter.
Throughout my teens, I used to ski race. I had the pleasure of racing, travelling & training alongside some of the stars of the Alpine Ski Team who will hopefully – selection permitting – be representing us in Sochi in 87 days, so it will be extra special.
I learned to ski following a particularly bad time on my first ever ski trip with school, where I was terrible & got ridiculed by the other kids & called the ‘Snowplough Queen’ all week.
I HATE BEING BAD AT THINGS & decided to take matters into my own hands when we got home & so I asked for ski lessons for my birthday at our local dry slope. The hope of this was that next time we went on a school trip, I would be brilliant & I’d show the horrid children what I could do & they wouldn’t pick on me any more.
What actually happened is that I got ‘the bug’. I had a course of lessons & used to go up to practice in an evening if I could. One Thursday evening I was invited to join a race training session & I absolutely loved it. I went religiously – first once a week, then twice. I hardly ever missed a session & even walked the 4 miles to get there if mum or dad couldn’t take me. After a few months, winter began & I was asked if I would like to go & compete in the races over the October half term, Christmas & Easter breaks. It was a whole new world to me & – aged 12 – I went away for the first time without my parents (they had no interest in learning to ski) & with the race club. I made some fabulous friends & travelled to some amazing places, including 8 weeks in New Zealand the year I finished my GCSEs, which was incredible. I wasn’t particularly brilliant, but I trained hard, religiously did my fitness work when I wasn’t away & learned a lot of valuable lessons about discipline, respect for equipment & responsibility for my own actions – race camps were strict & if you didn’t behave, you didn’t ski: simples. Because of these rules, I also learned a lot about not getting caught, as there was obviously the heady mix of altitude, hormones & competitiveness that comes with putting 20 or so teens together in one hotel – turns out France is the best place to buy alcohol if you’re under age, just in case you have ever pondered this. We extensively researched this during my racing years.
My heroes weren’t pop stars or actresses, they were people like Alberto Tomba, Pernilla Wiberg, Picaboo Street & – more recently – Hermann Maier, Lindsey Vonn & Bode Miller. I love the hypnotic rhythm of watching someone ski a slalom or a giant slalom course & knowing that they were on the absolute edge – one mistake & it’d be all over, but they have to race at the extremes of their ability, or what’s the point? The speed a human can travel at in a downhill race is something you don’t grasp on the tv, but to see it in person is incredible.
Skiing truly does push all of the boundaries of the human body & it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I also can’t get enough of the graceful ice skating, the brutal ice hockey & the incredible speed of the speed-skaters. I don’t understand what the bloody hell curling is all about, but I watch it in the hope that one day I might understand it & I think anyone who hurls themselves down an icy track – be it in a bobsleigh or a skeleton – is a nutter, while the skier-X, snowboarding & freestyle skiing all have me mesmerised.
I will be glued to the tv for the Sochi Winter Olympics. For many the Winter Olympics are the poor relation of the Summer Olympics, but not for me. They’re very different, certainly, but both of them celebrate the incredible feats that an individual or a team can achieve with hard work, grit & determination. One of my skiing friends posted this video with highlights from previous winter games & it’s really got me excited! If you have yet to discover the wonder of the Winter Olympics, give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
In case you wondered, I never went on another school ski trip again.