SKI CROSS: As Australia begins to heat up, Austria is beginning to cool down and while leaving the beach-friendly weather for the freezing cold is not everyone’s cup of tea it sits perfectly well with ski cross star Doug Crawford.
The 17-year-old has spent the past few weeks in Leogang, Austria, as he prepares for the biggest competition of his burgeoning career - the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
“It’s been a tough few weeks to start getting used to the altitude training,” Crawford, who calls Mansfield, Victoria home when in Australia, said.
“The training is going really well, the snow conditions are great and everything is clicking together nicely.
“We are doing four days on the snow and one day off. We are skiing every morning and heading to the gym in the afternoon on our snow days and then working on our starts and are back in the gym on the other days.”
After a strong domestic season, Crawford had his first races to start the European winter in late November where he took on some of the finest athlete’s in the sport at the Austrian National Championships and the Pitzal Europa Cup event.
He next heads to France where stiff competition again awaits at the Val Thorens Europa Cup event.
“It will definitely be tough as the World Cup has just been there and a lot of those competitors will stay on so for these events so I am hoping to be the fastest for the 17-18 year olds.
“Competing in these events is the best preparation I can have for Lillehammer.
“Skiing in the open ages competitions against the big boys will hopefully make sure that when I get to the Youth Olympics I will have no problems.”
With under sixty days to go until the second instalment of the Winter Youth Olympic Games kick off, Crawford’s schedule doesn’t get any quieter.
“I’ll be back from France in Austria for Christmas, before competing in Italy, Germany and France again and then fly to Lillehammer.
“It definitely is a jam-packed schedule heading in.”
With those competitions under his belt Crawford is confident of a strong result on the Lillehammer slopes.
“My hopes are pretty high especially after world juniors last year having been the fastest athlete for my age in the field. I was also second highest ranked in terms of possible candidates for Lillehammer.
“I’ve done a lot of researching of who is eligible and I’ve beaten a lot of them but they’ve also beaten me. I think I can push for a really good result though.”
Along with freestyle skiing, Australia is looking to take a team of approximately 14 athletes in snowboard, alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, ice hockey (skills challenge), luge and short track skating.
The Lillehammer Games will be the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, following on from Innsbruck in 2012. The 2016 version will include many of the venues from the Winter Games in 1994 with 1100 young athletes from 70 nations competing in 70 events. It will be a competition and education experience they will never forget.