TASS skiers and skaters report back after Winter Youth Olympics

TASS supported athletes were out in force at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne last month. We found out more from our famous five: Olivia Weedon (speed skating), Jasper Klein (freestyle skiing), Sophie Foster, Robert Holmes and Daisi Daniels (all alpine skiing).

TASS: How did you get into winter sports?

OW: My uncle and aunt, Jon and Joanna Eley, both skated at multiple Winter Olympics and it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was four when we visited Turin to watch my uncle compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics. I can’t really remember the trip but I know I’d been skating for a year by then!

JK: I lived in Wanaka in New Zealand from the age of six to 14 and there’s a lot of skiing in that part of the world. I got into skiing and so did my brother and a lot of my mates. Now that I live in Cirencester I do most of my skiing abroad in Europe. It was always the intention to carry on when we moved back over here.

SF: I started skiing when I went on family holidays and then when I was in Year Two my school started a ski team. They trained at the dry slope at Sandown Park and I started racing when I was around nine. I loved it and when I was 12 I joined an academy. From a young age I was always really competitive.

RH: Mum and dad went on a skiing holiday about 20 years ago and when I came along they took me with them! I was three or four when I first started skiing. I joined Pendle Ski Club – where Dave Ryding is from – and I just loved the speed and the thrill of it.

DD: At the age of four I went on a family ski holiday in Austria. I loved it then and I still love it now.

 

TASS: What was your target heading to Lausanne?

DD: My main goal was to compete to my full potential as well as maintaining control whilst skiing and staying focused.

RH: I was hoping for a Top 30 and a Top 25 finish. I knew I could achieve both but in the slalom I went chasing a top 10 finish and made a mistake and ended up disqualified. The giant slalom was much better and finished 20th out of 75.

SF: As a first-year skiier at this level I was just so happy to have been selected and looking forward to the experience. I went to the Youth Olympics aiming for two top 30 finishes overall and a top 10 finish in my age group. I achieved both of those goals.

JK: I wanted to make the finals in slope style but that wasn’t to be. I did make the finals of the big air competition and finished ninth overall.

OW: I didn’t have a set target. I focused on being the best that I could be technically. I was up against skaters who compete on the senior World Cup circuit and so I wasn’t really going to the Games to win. I just wanted to see how far I could go by skating my very best technically. I just wanted to enjoy myself and learn from the experience.

 

TASS: How tough was the competition?

RH: As far as the Europeans were concerned I knew who I was up against and they were every bit as good as I thought they’d be. The Austrians and the Scandinavians were strong and there was a Japanese lad who really stood out. I expected the US team to be strong but that wasn’t really the case. I also bumped into a lad I’d met in South Africa – where I’d been skiing for 10 days last year – and he did really well.

OW: It was tough. I think I’d raced all of the European athletes but most of the non-European athletes I’d never come up against before. There was a real mix of entries – from girls who’d skated in the World Cup to girls who’d been skating for less than a year.

JK: It was a really strong field. There was one guy in the slope style competition, from Ukraine, who came out of nowhere to finish third. I don’t know all of the guys personally but I know how good they are! The thing with freestyle skiing is that there’s a real camaraderie between the competitors. Everyone is so supportive and we enjoy watching each other and seeing what we can achieve.

SF: The US team was very strong. I’ve never been skiing over there so I didn’t know any of their skiiers and didn’t know what to expect. As expected, the European field was strong and the Austrians, in particular, were impressive. It was very challenging racing against the best in the world and the slope itself was tough. But it was amazing to be there and test myself in those circumstances.

DD: The competition was a pretty high standard – especially as it included competitors from the countries which dominated the World Cup circuit this season.

 

TASS: What are the biggest challenges you face as a dual career snow sports athlete in England?

JK: As well as funding – or the lack of it – I’d say balancing my school work with my study is the biggest challenge I face. I get a lot of support from my parents and teachers and the TASS lifestyle coach is excellent. But a lot of it is down to me as the athlete.

RH: I think it’s difficult to look beyond the financial side of things as one of the biggest challenges. Every year I progress and have more opportunities to compete all over the world but with that comes increased costs. My sister is on the same team as me so it’s twice as expensive for our parents! We’re completely self-funded. But that’s the reality for UK-based skiiers. Your opponents are training all day, every day in somewhere like Chile and you’re trying to get time on an indoor slope back home. It’s difficult but we’ve got to make the most of it.

DD: Both finance and school are big challenges for me. The sport is very financially demanding with the travelling, coaching, training, equipment and much more. Those costs are mainly covered by my parents with help from a few sponsors.  School work is tough as I am in America most of the season meaning not only is it done through email but the time difference to get feedback from teachers prolongs the work sometimes.

OW: As a sport we have no central funding. I would love to be able to skate full time and put everything into my sport but it’s just not possible. I have to pay for everything myself including the trips up to Nottingham to train. There are the travel costs associated with attending competitions and many of them are abroad as we don’t have too many rinks in the UK. TASS support is vital and I do get free access to the rink in Guildford. But I rely on the help of my parents – they’ve played a very big role in my skating career so far.

SF: Most of my international rivals are full-time so they ski all day every day. I’m only skiing from time to time and going back and forth from the UK to Europe. That’s very hard. Being an A-Level student at the same time isn’t easy and one of the biggest challenges I face is keeping up with my education. There’s no funding for British skiiers and so my parents pay for everything.