They’re fast, strong, dressed in lycra … and a rare sight in Australia. Junior national team member Katerina Paul writes about loving a sport no one understands, the struggle for recognition and support, and how they’re working to recruit more girls into cross-country skiing.
Cross-country skiing: huge in Scandinavia, growing in the United States of America, and Australia?
Well I could name almost all the skiers I compete against in the Southern Hemisphere, not very popular to say the least.
Whenever I’m asked about what sport I do, people give me a look of confusion. Growing up in a country with some of the worlds best swimmers, surfers and footballers, why would I pick a sport where Australia hardly credits it?
Born and raised in Australia I grew up playing footy with my dad, horse riding with my mum and cross-country skiing? We did it as a family!
My parents were dual Olympians for Australia in Biathlon – cross-country skiing and shooting. Despite my parents once being the elite of the elite there was never any pressure, I just loved it and it was always for fun!
Now that I’m almost at the top of XC skiing in Australia should my attitude change? I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t fun.
Cross-country skiing is one of if not the hardest sport in the world. Our VO2 Max tests are studied by Sport Scientists across the globe, and the highest VO2 Max ever recorded in Australia is by a team-mate of mine, Callum Watson.
Yet mainstream Australia doesn’t recognize XC skiing as a sport that’s worth any support. Sure we are low on the world rankings, but having competed against many junior athletes from around the world, we aren’t that different under the age of 20.
The focus needs to be on athletes that are transitioning from juniors to senior athletes and bringing new juniors into the sport.
Where we lose many athletes is around the mid-teen age years, especially girls. Many girls drop out of sports in the teen age group because there isn’t as much of a “cool” stigma for a girl to play sport as it is for a boy.
One way of tackling this issue is ensuring girls can have access to fun programs that empower them to stay in sport. Fast & Female Inc. is one of those programs.
Fast & Female is a non-for-profit program established in 2005 by Canadian Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford.
Fast & Female’s vision is to empower girls in sport and provide positive personal and athletic development of young female athletes involved in an array of sports. Fast & Female has an Australian branch and there are a number of events across the winter season to get involved with.
The next event at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort is on June 28. Casey Wright, another fast up and coming Aussie skier and myself will run this year’s event. Joining us will be several other ambassadors who are past & present National Team members.
All participants will join in a fun 2-hour ski lesson, involving several different skill and game based stations, including laser biathlon.
This is such a fun event, and I hope to see as many girls as possible on the day. Click here
for more details.
– AS TOLD TO ANDREA ROGNSTRAND
Article Credit: Andrea Rognstrand- Hera Magazine
Image credits: flickr.com/creativecommons, Facebook, Twitter