It was the experience of a lifetime when St Peter’s School student Meghan Hood represented New Zealand last month at the 2018 Whistler Cup. The international event sees under 14 and under 16-year-old snow skiers battle it out on the slopes of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the mighty Whistler Blackcomb mountains in West Vancouver, Canada.
It was Meghan’s first time representing our nation, in a country she’d never been to before. “It was amazing,” she said. “The competition was a huge step up, and the runs that we skied on were very technical, more competitive.”
The Year 11 student, who has been skiing since age three and racing since ten, said the thought of representing New Zealand “never really got to” her, “because I was so focussed in my runs,” she said. “But at the end of the competition I was like ‘wow I just skied for New Zealand, that was a pretty big deal’.”
Most of Meghan’s competitors had the benefit of training over an entire winter in the Northern Hemisphere, whilst Kiwi team had just two weeks of training under Olympian coaches Ben Griffin and Willis Feasey.
It was the ski of her life when Meghan competed in the downhill slalom speed event known as super-G, making the top 20 for the first phase of racing, but dropping back to a 32nd-place finish amongst the field of 72 skiers, after a late turn mid-way caused significant time loss. Although only a slight delay, placings in ski racing are down to 0.01 of a second.
“At that level it’s really hard mentally, to calm the nerves… it’s very challenging mentally and physically,” Meghan said.
Then came the SG and slalom races – two races with combined times. “I was very nervous in the start gate… It was a slowish run in the first race and then really fast in the second one, so I just got pushed out,” said Meghan, who placed just outside the top 30, in 31st place.
The baffling teams racing round saw the best-ranked country go up against the worst-ranked, and the second-best team up pitted against the second-worst, and so on. So, when New Zealand went up against the 6th-ranked French team, so it was no surprise that France won. “I thought it was pretty crazy,” Meghan said.
Having just turned 16, Meghan now enters the FIS series – upgrading from age group competition straight into the professional realm, where she can collect FIS points at each event to count towards a placing in the next international competition. “I’ll be starting last too, so I’ll get all the ruts in the snow and that, but it will be a good challenge to get in the (top) 30s.”
Meghan will head back to Cardrona, where she trains during winter, when New Zealand ski season kicks off in early July and plans to take part in her first competition of the season at the Wanaka FIS Tech Series, August 1 – 4.