Marshalls Park pupil ready to climb any mountain
PUBLISHED: 18:30 24 December 2015
Bailey bidding for glory with GB Ski Academy
There appears little chance of a White Christmas in the UK this year, with the country basking in unseasonably mild temperatures, but Marshalls Park pupil Kathryn Bailey will be hitting the snow in France.
The 15-year-old dreams of competing at a Winter Olympics in the future, but for now her focus is on the Anglo-Scottish Championships in Les Houches next month.
A member of GB Ski Academy, the Romford teen is also set to compete in races in Austria in late January as she builds up to the British Championships during the Easter break.
“I’m going to every race I can next year,” said Bailey.
“The main goal for the end of the 2016 season is to be top 10 at the British and top English skier at the Anglo-Scottish.
“The Scottish are quite good, but you want something to build up for and look forward to. When you achieve goals you feel better.
“We’ve been through realistic goals and major goals, dreams like competing at the Olympics.
“I’m going to try really hard this year, but I’ve also got GCSE exams to prepare for. Marshalls are really supportive and want me to do well. I keep in touch to make sure I’m staying on track.
“I missed one week in October, but will miss the whole of next term apart from one week in February when I come back to make sure I’m on track.”
Juggling studies with skiing does not appear to be hurting Bailey’s grades, though. She very modestly admitted to being predicted mainly As.
The youngest of four children (James, 25; Jemma, 20; Robert, 17), Bailey got the skiing bug at the age of ‘five or six’ while the family were living in New Jersey, USA for three years.
“I was skiing in kid lessons at Camp Gaw and was quite good and my sister was doing lessons with the race club, so I joined in with them the following season,” she said.
“You started off on a tiny slope that was basically flat, getting a ‘magic carpet’ to the top, but then it was a proper ski lift and coming down the mountain.
“I was quite confident, I did ice skating as well in the US and had good balance. I just liked being with the people and the coaches were nice, I enjoyed it.”
The family returned to the UK in 2010 and Bailey went to Pinewoods Primary before Marshalls Park, but her skiing career was put on hold.
“I didn’t do any skiing. I went to the indoor slope at Hemel, but didn’t enjoy it as much. It wasn’t as steep or challenging, I was just playing around with turns,” she added.
“We went on family holidays to Bormio in Italy and the English Championships are held there. I’d see people and think ‘I want to do that, rather than ski around with my family’.
“In 2014 my parents convinced me to go to the GB Ski Academy, so I went to their October camp at Les Deux Alpes in France. It was quite a big group of varying ages, from kids to proper racers. I didn’t know anyone and went by myself. My dad flew over with me, but then we met the group at the airport and he flew home again!
“It was a bit scary being by myself and not knowing anyone and I wasn’t the best and not at the highest level. I hadn’t done much for five years and was skiing at a nine-year-old level again, from when I’d stopped. Others were the same as me, though, so it was all right!”
It was more than a case of just hurtling down the mountainside, though, as Bailey and her peers were given instruction on vital preparations, as well as tips on achieving better fitness.
“There’s a lot of kit and I’ve got a big bag to carry it all in! It was a learning experience and we were shown how to prep our skis, how to wax them and sharpen the edges,” she said.
“I hate edging! You have to file the ski and check it with the back of your fingers to see if it grips. But I love waxing, you dribble it down the ski and run an iron along it to spread it out, then leave it to dry for half an hour and scrape it off with a plastic square!
“We did a bit of fitness, jogging and stretching. I really enjoyed it. It was a good week during October half-term.”
As a result of that, Bailey went out to Bormio to train during the February half-term, a week before the English Championships.
And more important lessons were learned about the finer details of racing, with Bailey adding: “It scared me a bit. Standing at the gate at the top of the course terrified me!
“But I learnt a lot. The start gate wasn’t right at the top. We could warm-up at the top with the coaches and then go down the mountain to the start gate.
“The coaches helped put you in your skis, sorting out the settings, and would bang the snow off with a screwdriver. I was 15th in the giant slalom, but there’s no downhill section until you’re older as you need a lot of skill. I did one Super G at the end of the season, as the big championships include it, but I fell.”
After more training, Bailey headed to Les Houches for the Inter Schools Championships, where she finished sixth in the giant slalom and inside the top 15 in the slalom.
“I fell two gates from the end, which was really annoying!” said Bailey, before revealing further frustrations at the Aiglon Cup in Switzerland.
“After the first GS run I was in second place. It wasn’t a difficult course and I was thinking ‘yes, I’ve got this, if I can go one second quicker on my second run I could get gold’. But I crashed out! I was so annoyed with myself.
The season ended with the British Championships in Tignes at Easter, when a certain level needs to be reached to be able to compete, and Bailey achieved the standard required, but admitted it was not a pleasant experience. “The weather was horrendous. It was snowing, which isn’t normal for that time, it’s usually warmer. There was heavy snow. It was not fun!” she added.
“For the slalom we had to walk down the course in our ski boots to compact the snow down and then they put salt on it. Instead of being flat there were holes in it and it wasn’t good. I don’t want to say how I did!”
Bailey reveals a 17th place finish in the giant slalom, of which she was rightly proud, but her solitary run in the Super GS did not go to plan. “The weather ruined it. You can’t do the Super G in powder. I crashed out and slid for miles! The photographer got some great pics of that!” she said.
“You have to prepare for it. The weather changes all the time. When it’s cloudy or foggy you can’t see the gate in front of you! We only did one run in all events, it was so bad. They tried to get as many races in as they could. It was supposed to be a week long.”
Bailey was back at Les Houches in the summer for a fitness camp, including mountain biking, hiking and rafting, as well as more advice on nutrition and diet from a new coach.
Then after two weeks on the glacier at Les Deux Alpes – “It’s where I improved the most, although I had a bug that went around the camp” – it was back to Tignes in October for a camp and then a few weeks back in the classroom at Marshalls before Christmas.
“They give me loads of work for every lesson I miss when I go away and I’m always in touch so I know I’m not behind,” said Bailey, who admits PE is her favourite lesson, but she also likes Spanish.
“I can do the accent better than French! There are a couple of tutors at camp, but we’re all different age groups, studying under different exam boards, so you’re left to get on with it. If you need specific help you can ask.”
Bailey, who tried all sports in year seven – “hockey, lacrosse” – and still plays netball now, does not strike you as one needing much help and uses American’s 2010 Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn as inspiration.
“She had a massive injury and came back and the confidence she must have in her coaches is amazing,” she said. “Crossing the finish line is the best, getting that sense of accomplishment.”
Whose to say Bailey cannot go on to achieve her goals?