Skiing: Alice Robinson playing catch up due to lockdown ahead of biggest season

New Zealand ski racer Alice Robinson has lost about three weeks of on-snow training due to lockdown as she prepares for the biggest season of her young career.

But her team are confident the 19-year-old will be ready to depart for Europe early next month to carry on from where she finished last season.

Robinson will embark on a Northern Hemisphere programme that will see her compete in not only a full giant slalom World Cup season, but also the entire Super G season as well as the blue riband Downhill for the first time.

She will have to compete in lesser races in the most electrifying speed discipline to earn enough points to compete on the World Cup circuit.

The Queenstown skier has already mastered giant slalom, having won two races last season including the final race at the World Cup finals in Switzerland in March. She also finished fourth at February’s world championships in Italy. Robinson looms as a strong medal prospect in the discipline at next February’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

She made progress in Super G last season and had her first top 15 finish in the discipline, while she has also taken her first steps training on downhill skis.

The plan for Robinson and her team this winter down under was to spend time on all three disciplines which she hopes to compete in at Beijing. Co-coaches Chris Knight, a Kiwi based in Italy, and American Jeff Fergus arrived in the country in late July and after quarantine spent just over a week with Robinson at Coronet Peak before the country was plunged into Level 4 lockdown.

Three weeks later with the country outside of Auckland at Level 2, they have headed back up the slopes, but Knight says the programme has been adapted to consider the limited snow time.

“It will definitely be more GS based and we’ll probably have to cut most of the speed training we had planned out of the programme so we can focus on GS and get prepared for the first race,” Knight said.

That race is the prestigious Solden GS, high up on the glaciers in the Austrian Alps next month. The honours board contains a who’s who of Alpine skiing, including Robinson who stunned the skiing world as a 17-year-old by winning her first World Cup race in 2019.

Knight says the lack of time on downhill skis this winter could impact some of the scheduled races in the US in November, but other than that they are sticking with the plan.

“Super G is still obviously a huge part of her programme, we will get some days here and some days in Austria before the race in Solden and then we’ll get a lot of training in November before those first [Super G] races in December. So, if the training goes well and the first races go well, we won’t have to change the programme at all.”

Knight is hoping the weather plays ball over the next few weeks, calculating they have missed several weeks of solid winter temperatures.

“Things are just a little bit different now, so we have to pray for the weather gods. We should get a cold front coming through that will see temperatures drop a bit and hopefully it freezes up the saturated snow and turns into ice so it’s like a natural injection. The weather looks really unsettled for the next seven days so we’re just going to be up at six o’clock every morning driving up to try and get something out of it.”

Despite being off the mountain during lockdown, Robinson was able to change her training schedule with home-based activities to keep in shape.

“We got her fitness coach in Europe to send us down a programme for the two and a half weeks while we weren’t skiing,” Knight said. “These guys know what to do and she’s been given some workouts which helped with the same effect of being on snow. So we were able to get a lot of stuff done but it doesn’t make up for testing equipment and getting the set up right for the first races.”

Robinson and her team hope to train in New Zealand for the rest of the month before taking a week off then heading to Europe with a view to being on the snow in Austria around the 8th or 9th of October, two weeks before the season-opening race.

Last year Robinson left for Europe in early August due to her coaches being unable to get down to New Zealand during the pandemic. It meant she spent more than eight months away from her family and struggled at times during the season. But her late-season form showed what Robinson is capable of when given a strong preparation and a longer period at home.

Knight says he and Fergus have been impressed with the work the young Kiwi has done in the off-season.

“Alice is in great shape; she had a really good summer programme of training and we really like what we’re seeing with her on snow in the limited time we’ve had. I’m pretty confident that we can get things done in the four weeks that we’ve got left and be ready.”

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