Greta Small Winter Youth Olympic Games Interview
Teenager Greta Small triumphed over fields of high fliers to win the senior national slalom and giant slalom gold medals in Thredbo in August. She also won the junior slalom gold to make it three national crowns in three days.
At just 15, Small represents one of Australia's most promising young winter sport athletes.
Born in Wangaratta, Victoria and raised in Albury, Small now calls the northern suburbs of Perth home. It is there that Small has the support of family and friends and attends Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE).
Her southern hemisphere training base is in Mount Hotham, Victoria, and her northern base is in Pitztal, Austria. The Austrian Rache Centre where Small trains is just an hour away from where she hopes to represent Australia and get her first taste of the Olympics next year.
From January 13-22, 2012 the world's best young athletes aged 15-18 will descend on Innsbruck, Austria for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games (WYOG).
Approximately 15 young Australians will compete across 11 winter disciplines alongside 1,100 other competitors. The event follows the roaring success of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and the Australian Team will be led by Olympic gold medallist Alisa Camplin as Chef de Mission, and Vancouver Olympian Ramone Cooper as Team Mentor.
For Small, the prospect of representing Australia at the WYOG is the motivation she needs to push herself to new levels.
"At the top of my list of goals is going to the Youth Olympic Games," Small said.
The youngster has the right skills to get her there and is showing maturity beyond her years. Her race tactics at the 2011 National Championships saw her explode with a blistering first ski slalom run on her way to a first gold.
"I was really shocked after the first run actually. So I raced conservatively in the second run because my focus was on winning gold."
And that, Small emphatically did. Her determination and commitment to competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games was equally as clear when Small spoke to Olympics.com.au.
"It would mean representing Australia- I would just be so stoked!" Small said. "It's almost competing at my home away from home as well. I know all the locals there so it would be really, really cool."
Is this a talent to watch for the future? You bet.
In "awful" conditions on her second run in the senior giant slalom event, Small kept fighting for gold until the end and won by a convincing 1.5 seconds.
"My coach, Alfons Schmidt, always says it's very important to train in all conditions and we do," Small said.
"Today it was all about good technical skiing, so by practicing in all types of weather it really makes you a better skier. On a day like today that really shows," Small said.
The reality of her achievements over three days in Thredbo is yet to sink in, but Small has big dreams about her future in alpine skiing.
"My long term goals are going to the 2013 World Championships and Sochi 2014 is definitely one of my long term goals," Small added.
Four-time Olympian Zali Steggall has long been Small's inspiration. Steggall won Australia's first individual Winter Olympic medal, winning bronze in the slalom event at the 1998 Nagano Games.
"Zali was really the last Olympian that was up there for the women. I really look up to her."
Small was just three-years-old when Steggall won bronze, but no other Australian has won an alpine skiing Olympic medal since then. Perhaps she will be next.
Interview with Greta Small
Question: What are your future plans coming up to the Winter Youth Olympic Games?
Greta Small: I am training really hard and I am hoping to lower my world ranking; I want to be in the Top 16 ranking for the draw so I can better my chances at a podium finish.
Question: Can you talk about your training schedule?
Greta Small: At the end of the September I will be travelling back to my Northern Hemisphere base in Pitztal, Austria where I will train with my coach Alfons Schmidt. Training includes warm-up races and mainly focusing on technical training and starting in the gates, again.
Question: How often do you train?
Greta Small: Normally I train three - four days a week on snow and then, I do three - four days a week of physical training. Every day I do afternoon, physical training. I train on Saturdays too.
Question: Where do you mostly train?
Greta Small: My Northern Hemisphere base is in Pitztal, Austria. In Australia I train at my Southern Hemisphere base which is in Mount Hotham. At the moment I have just finished the National Championships at Thredbo.
Question: How do you fit school in around your training?
Greta Small: It is really difficult. I have to do school work whenever it is possible, sometimes I do it at night time. Often I just fit it in, when I can. My teachers are really great they're very supportive which is lucky.
I do distance education from Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) in WA.
Question: What is your ultimate goal in regards to skiing?
Greta Small: My long term goal is definitely Sochi 2014 and also 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. I hope I win a few World Cups and World Championships, along the way.
Question: When did you begin skiing?
Greta Small: I started ski racing when I was ten years old at Mount Hotham. I had always enjoyed recreational skiing, ever since I was 18 months old and we had always had family skiing holidays in France. Then, I went to Interschool(Ski Sports) with my Primary School in Albury, Victoria and I came 16th and I had never raced before, that was my first time, in the gates. I really enjoyed skiing and I was quite good at it so I went away to the Northern Hemisphere for a little bit of training and when I came back to compete in the Interschool's again, the next year, I won the same race. From there I continued on with the training because I really loved ski racing.
Question: Is there someone you look up to that inspired you to begin race skiing competitively?
Greta Small: I definitely look up to international skiers such as Lindsey Vonn and Marlies Schild. In my Northern Hemisphere base is in Pitztal, Austria I live next door to Marlies Schild, which is really exciting and motivating.
Question: Sounds like you are always in the winter weather. How do you deal with always being in the cold?
Greta Small: I love the cold! I hate the hot! It is the perfect lifestyle, I think part of why I like skiing and the snow so much is because I like being cold!
Question: Does your family travel to your Northern and Southern Hemisphere bases, with you?
Greta Small: My mother lives with me all the time, in both hemisphere bases and my father travels with me, whenever possible.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Image: Ramone Cooper / SSA