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From the Youth Olympics to Sochi

6 February 2013

The 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games gave some of Australia’s youngest and brightest stars the ultimate kick-start on the road to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

One year on from the inaugural Winter YOG, the experiences of the Innsbruck 2012 campaign still ring true for some of Australia’s Sochi 2014 hopefuls.

Just ask 17-year-old alpine skier Greta Small, who skied to an impressive first place in the Giant Slalom Far East Cup race in Bearstown, Korea last week.

“The Youth Olympic Games was a once in a lifetime experience so it definitely helped me,” Small said.

Entering the Winter YOG with high expectations, Small was bestowed with carrying the Australian Flag at the Opening Ceremony and finished seventh in the Slalom and Super G and 13th in the Giant Slalom and Super Combined events.

“The positive and negative experiences I had in Innsbruck changed my mindset going into Sochi and for my racing career in general. If I had not had some of those negative experiences I would not be having the awesome results I am having now.”

The determined teenager went on to record one of her biggest career wins in Korea amid the one year countdown to Sochi.

“At the Far East Cup I really just let go of any expectations for the race and just drove the skis around each corner as fast as I could. When I crossed the line and realised I had the fastest first run time I couldn't believe it.

“For my second run I just relaxed and tried to repeat my first run, which I did.  When I came through the line the other racers clapped and congratulated me, it was pretty surreal.”

Small has processed all of her Innsbruck lessons - from the high of meeting her idol Lindsey Vonn to dealing with the challenges of a multi-sport environment. Now she is flying to Olympic qualification with a season of personal bests and a surging world ranking.

“I am a lot more relaxed in my skiing and towards races which is ultimately making me ski faster.

“I have been working hard through all the aspects involved in what I do, each season increasing and improving,” said Small, who also recorded two second places at The Far East Cup Slalom races in Jisan Forest, Korea and a string of strong results at the Slovakian Nationals.

Off the back on an inspired 2012, Small is now back in Austrian territory to contest her first senior Alpine World Championships in Schladming. The senior National Champion will then fly to Quebec, Canada for the World Junior Championships where she hopes to improve on her 2012 best placing of 11th (Combined).

Small’s compatriot and Innsbruck 2012 bronze medallist Alex Fitch also graduated to the senior World Championships this year, finishing 22nd in the snowboard halfpipe.

Fitch won her Youth Olympic bronze medal in the snowboard slopestyle event which is one of the new additions to the Sochi 2014 program.

Fitch will look to edge her way into a 2014 Australian Team that is likely to feature Olympic Champion Torah Bright and 2011 snowboard halfpipe World Champion Holly Crawford.

One of the breakthroughs of the 2012 Australian Winter YOG campaign, Alex Ferlazzo, has also continued to excel since Innsbruck and could push for a place in Sochi 2014.

Ferlazzo, from tropical Queensland, learnt his sport of luge sliding down the hills of Townsville. In this real-life ‘Cool Runnings’ story, Ferlazzo competed in his first international competition in 2011 before finishing 19th at the Winter YOG against some of the world’s finest young lugers.

Now in only his second season of competing in luge, Ferlazzo has made history by winning bronze at a Junior World Cup in Norway – Australia’s first ever medal at this level.

Taya Conomos

Follow all of these athletes and more on the road to Sochi 2014 at Olympics.com.au @AUSOlympicTeam #Sochisosoon

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