Snow Nationals 2018

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Sara Lane

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The University of Adelaide recently had a student participate in the Snow Nationals as our lone competitor. Charles Wenk, an avid skier, was nice enough to write up a summary of the week. For more read below.

"Last week I was lucky enough to represent the University of Adelaide as our sole competitor at the Australian Snow Unisport Nationals hosted by Mt Buller. When I was younger, I was quite a serious Alpine ski racer, and spent a couple of winters training almost every day to try to be competitive at the highest level in the country. I never did make my mark as a junior, however. After having given up the sport in a serious capacity after breaking my shoulder snowboarding, I decided to give it another go in a more relaxed setting. Realising that the Snow Unisport Nationals, being the snowsport counterpart to Uni Nationals, might just be what I was looking for, I signed up. Little did I realise that several of my competitors were former winter Olympians and a good few more of them had raced for Australia at one point or another. 'Oh dear', I thought, 'I don't have a chance'. Regardless, I had trained very hard and I hoped to place somewhere in the top half of the field.

My first race was giant slalom. This is the event that most people envision when the term 'ski-racing' is mentioned. The course sets flags far apart for medium length turns and racers typically reach speeds of around 40 kmph. This race is all about technique, and who has the best race turns will come out on top most of the time. I placed 12th in this event, a pleasant surprise. I was only a bit behind people who had beaten me much more convincingly during my junior career so I thought that perhaps I had improved since my heyday. Harry Laidlaw, winter Olympian, took home gold.

My second race, skicross, was cancelled due to poor conditions, so I only had one more race left to test my mettle against Australia's best in the super giant slalom, otherwise known as super-G. Super-G is similar to its little brother, giant slalom, except the gates are much further apart. This results in athletes often reaching speeds upwards of 100kmph during their run. Bear in mind that this is while wearing a spandex suit with nothing but two pieces of Teflon to steer with. Scary stuff. After psyching myself up after watching the winter Olympian that had gone before me nail his start, it was my turn. This was the fastest course I've ever been down. Not only was the course quite steep at parts, but I hadn't actually ever competed in super-G. In Australia, we have an aversion against entrusting juniors to navigate down the side of a hill at 100kmph. So this being my first time, I rather sensibly took it easy and focused on setting a decent time as safely as possible. Placing in the middle of the field, I was pleased with my effort and gave myself a pat on the back. Only joking! I skated for my life at the start, almost falling over in soft snow conditions, and went into a very low race tuck for the initial flatter section of the course. I held the tuck for as long as possible down the next steeper section before having to pull my arms out to balance myself to avoid missing a gate (which leads to instant disqualification). Feeling that I was onto a fast run, I pushed myself as much as possible, almost missing a gate in the lower section and finished in exactly 55 seconds. That placed me in 8th! This turned out to be one of the best runs of my career and I beat several racers who would absolutely cream me in junior competitions and nipping at the heels of those who had at one time, or still did, represent Australia in global competitions at the highest level.

All in all, I was very pleased with how I did at Snow Unisport Nationals and I am looking into my eligibility for the World Winter Universiade in Siberia in 2019. To anyone thinking about competing at the Unisport Nationals, I say go for it! There are different events for all kinds of skiers and snowboarders, from park enthusiasts to alpine purists and cross-country bumpkins. There are plenty of events to choose from. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the competition, and I would encourage anyone interested in snowsports to give Snow Unisport Nationals a go."