On the morning of 31st October 2015, like all New Zealanders, children and adults, I got up very early, at dawn, to watch the Rugby World Cup Final live.

The match was played at Twickenham Stadium, right in the centre of London, and you could sense the magical atmosphere, even through the TV screen.

The stadium – a kind of temple for anyone who has ever played or watched rugby – was packed with 80,000 people who had come all that way to see who would raise the World Cup aloft.

On one side of the pitch were our beloved All Blacks and on the other side, the Wallabies, the Australian team. It’s like a derby, and it means so much to everyone and so much to me, since I was born in one of the two countries and brought up in the other.

What’s more, the dear old UK was the perfect setting for the final showdown (try to line up the flags of the three countries, no further explanation is needed).

 

I loved the New Zealand national team because I grew up watching all the games of Richie McCaw, the captain, and I watched him putting his head and his heart into holes where other players had trouble putting their foot, thousands of times.

He was my idol.

He was the idol for a whole nation.

And on that morning five years ago he brought home the World Cup, just as he had done the year before.

 

When I was a young girl, I didn’t watch many ski races, simply because they weren’t broadcast on television.

Skiing is not that popular in our latitudes.

Or rather, not yet.

We’re working on it.

Rugby wasn’t my only love. I did manage to watch some ski races at night, and among skiers, I definitely looked up a lot to Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller.

Not very original, I know.

But they’re really larger than life, it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.

Lindsey would always win. Always.

No matter what happened to her, no matter what injury she suffered, she would go on, as powerful as a tank and, at the same time, as light as an eagle.

While Bode…well Bode was Bode!

It’s hard to describe him. With his crazy style, he was always attacking on skis, no matter which slope he was on, who his opponents were, which weather conditions prevailed. No matter how risky it was!

Today, when I think about my ski style, I like to imagine I look a bit like him, I like to think I’m powerful, strong, confident. And the biggest compliment I could ever receive is that I look like Bode when I step into the start gate, focused only on one thing – to get to the bottom as fast as I can, no matter what.

 

I was born in Sydney, near the Ocean, so I can’t say that skiing was a natural choice, that I was predestined to become a skier. But sport was, without a doubt, one of my greatest passions.

I tried my hand at football, athletics and even horse riding. I always had a blast.

My mum grew up on a farm, while my dad originally comes from Queensland, a place where the sun and sea obscure all thoughts of mountains. I don’t think they put on a pair of skis before they came of age!

But when we moved to New Zealand, to Queenstown, I immediately experienced what it was like to be on skis in the nearby resort of Coronet Peak.

 

“Don’t pizza! Make French fries!

French fries!!

 

That’s what my ski instructor told me during my first ski lesson, to teach me how to keep my skis like parallel French fries and not make a pizza wedge with them, because only if you can manage to do that will you get to the bottom before the others.

I didn’t need to be told twice! I was four years old.

Some time later, I started to notice the children who, besides skiing during the week, took part in races at weekends as well – they had such beautiful race suits, and I wanted one for me too.

Then I won my first race and I realised that winning is fun.

That’s how it all began.

 

In New Zealand, alpine skiing is not likely to be featured on a sports magazine cover, so I had the luck to have a split childhood. You could almost say I was leading a double life.

I didn’t go to sports schools.

I didn’t have a fast-track plan for success.

I dreamed of becoming a professional skier, but I was never known as ‘the skier’ before I actually became one.

Just Alice. I was just Alice.

Alice, who used to go to school in the morning and liked skiing in her free time.

I found a second family at Coronet Peak – there’s a real community vibe there, a sense of togetherness, a huge wave of love and brotherhood that all the athletes feel.

This is how we do it – we work hard without taking ourselves too seriously.

Then, when I was around 14 or 15, I started achieving impressive results and I realised that maybe alpine skiing could become something more than just a passion.

From then on, it all went so fast – and it is still going very fast! It felt and feels like riding a roller coaster consisting of flights, races, interviews and things to improve.

At 16 years old I found myself at the Olympics. I was New Zealand’s youngest ever Winter Olympian and after the Olympics I got to compete in the World Cup.

 

My first year on the World Cup circuit was a bit intimidating.

I didn’t have a big team with me, nor any teammate who could be a mentor to me. It took me some time, but when I started to figure out how to enjoy this weird life, I was free from worries.

I’ve learnt that all skiers go through a strange and complicated routine – it’s the same for everyone.

Even though some athletes have a more similar routine than others.

Some people, in fact, think that winter sports just aren’t for athletes from the southern hemisphere, and those of us who make it to the circuit must learn how to cope with spending 6 months a year in a time zone completely different to that of the people they love.

 

My origins arouse great curiosity.

Everybody wonders, and asks me, how I got here from where I started.

Amazing luck, a lot of hard work and other random things.

After further thought, it’s kind of a mystery, actually.

It’s quite a cool mystery.

 

I have so much to ask my future self, but it knows it shouldn’t take me too seriously.

I want to become a great skier.

I want to be fast.

I want to have a great style that people like. Like Bode.

I want to win a World Cup title.

I want to win an Olympic medal, and then perhaps New Zealand TV will give more airtime to our sport.

But I would gladly give up all of that.

I really would, if my career were able to open doors for lots of other girls like me. Young female athletes from the South of the world, or from small countries where alpine skiing is not a popular sport.

Young female and male skiers who, even though they were not born in Europe or North America, dream of being like the great champions of our time and of taking their place, one day.

 

It’s a lot to ask, but our generation is different. We live in an increasingly small world and we have so many opportunities for learning new things and sharing our ideas.

In and outside the world of sport.

I’ll do my part, working hard and sharing all my enthusiasm.

And when someone, boy or girl, comes to me and asks me for advice on how to start skiing, my first lesson will be free, since it’s easy to remember:

 

“Make French fries!”

 

The Owl Post for Cortina 2021