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As part of our #ScrumsOrSequins campaign, we spoke to pro-skier and Olympian Chemmy Alcott. Chemmy picked up her first set of skis at just 18 months old which led to a hugely successful career in the sport. She tells us what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated profession and why you can be both fast and feminine!
Skiing is a sport that’s not always easily accessible to people; how old were you when you started skiing? Where would you train and how did you fit this into your life?
I was the youngest of a sports mad family with both my parents playing high level sport and my brothers already racing when I was born so it was natural at 18 months old for me to try and love skiing. It was at first a family holiday activity in Flaine in France and then we all realised I was quite good so then I started skiing a lot and racing on plastic at Sandown Park.
Our #ScrumsOrSequins campaign is looking at how parents can challenge the stereotypical activities their children take up in order to keep fit…would you say your sport is male dominated or are there an even number of women and men competing?
There are less women registered to ski race across the world - I guess because it is quite fast and dangerous but throughout my career I saw the stereotypes change – you didn’t have to look like a man to ski fast anymore – in fact we embraced being fast and feminine!
Are you ever compared to your male counterparts? Do you ever feel as though you have to prove yourself as a female skier?
Well I am married to one of my male counterparts!! We make it work because we share the passion to ski fast but yes I hate being judged by looking girly and therefore presumably a slower skier. But I enjoy proving them wrong!!
You have been a very successful skier for many years. When you initially started on this road were you ever embarrassed to discuss your dreams with your peers?
No, not at all. I was very outspoken that my dream since I was a really little girl was to win an Olympic gold. However I mentor many young talented athletes now and really notice that young girls rarely aim high for fear of failure and also seeming arrogant. I try to build their self belief and confidence to have a dream and do everything they can to achieve it!
Skiing is a fantastic way of staying fit – what would you say are the health benefits for children?
Because skiing is so fun you rarely consider it as a fitness exercise and there lies one of the most fantastic aspects of the sport!
What do you think you’d be doing if you hadn’t pursued a career as a pro-skier?
I would have tried to become a pro tennis player… I love sport and pushing myself everyday to be better, stronger and faster.
You have been working on the X-Elle campaign with United Learning aiming to encourage girls to take up sport. What advice would you give to girls wanting to get into sport or parents who are looking to enrol their children into a sports club?
We have so many opportunities to find a sport that suits you – it doesn’t have to be one of the more ‘normal’ ones like netball, hockey or tennis – try expressing yourself through dance or yoga. The possibilities are endless. And there WILL be one that suits your child.