2011 has not been an easy year for British Ski Racer Chemmy Alcott, who was dealt a devastating blow at the end of last year, shattering her right leg while training in Canada. But Chemmy is nothing if not determined, and has enhanced her inspirational qualities further by her relentless display of resilience and enthusiasm. While admitting to a few wobbles along the way she has fully embraced the many opportunities to try new things during her enforced time off, while maintaining hardy support for her former team mates and competitors. On the cusp of launching Skibible we could not think of anyone we’d rather talk to, so Sophie Eggleton spoke to the multiple British Champion about her ongoing rehabilitation, her love of diamonds and Royal Weddings while grabbing some tips on the best ski resorts in world.
I believe you started skiing at a very early age, were you a natural from the off?
I am not sure 18 month olds are naturally expert at much apart from being cheeky so no, I was actually really frustrated that I didn’t master it straight away. My elder brothers were zooming down the slopes and I just wanted to follow them – it was infuriating! Every British summer from the age of eleven to nineteen you travelled to New Zealand in order to train in the antipodean winter…
Did you ever feel like you were missing out on normal child/teenage summer activities?
No the sacrifices were very much worth it. I loved those summers! I was doing what I want to do in a beautiful place with highly talented people. I was a fierce, determined young lady and my parents were helping me achieve my dream.
How did you do academically? Did other subject fail due to your devotion to the sport?
No I set myself an ultimatum of 4 As at A-Level then I could ski for as long as possible and people wouldn’t be able to say I ski because I don’t have any other options. I worked hard and achieved my grades so now I can ski!
Did you ever have to deal with jealousy from your peers?
Skiing is such a fantastic sport with all your peers being your closest friends. Because of the danger element of the sport when someone skis more on the limit and beats you, you don’t hate them or get jealous, you respect them!
We would imagine you are pretty much at fit as you can be, but did climbing Kilimanjaro in 2008 push even you to the limit?
That was a different kind of fitness. You struggle to train for something like that at such a high altitude – despite regularly skiing at 3000m, I got super ill at 5000m and really labored my way up to the very top. For me it was a mental game – because I was over there raising money for Right To Play, it wasn’t about accomplishing the feat for myself it was about all who supported me and the wonderful work this charity achieves in Africa.
What other challenges or dreams are on your personal Bucket List?
Great Question! Well at Glorious Goodwood I got to own a horse for a day and wear very valuable diamonds! That was definitely a great week! Right now still rehabbing I just want to ski again. In the long-term, I would like to win a gold medal for my country, try tow in surfing on some big waves but need to get a lot better, I would like to become a respected female explorer/adventurer, I would like to stay close to my fantastic family and one day have a family of my own but most of all I just want to Carpe Diem!
You’ve faced injury a few times in your career, most recently a broken leg at the end of 2010 while training in Canada. What stage are you in your rehabilitation?
Everyday I am getting stronger and fitter but it was a really bad crash and I shattered my leg badly so the rehab journey is long and hard work but I am always trying to keep positive and not focus on the end goal yet.
Through following your twitter updates your followers have seen you go through highs and lows, battling many different emotions…. What/Who has got you through this difficult time?
My family and close friends have been GOLD. Also the Canadian women’s’ ski team who I was training and racing with when I crashed have always been there emailing, calling and even coming to visit me to check I am okay. Also my rehab manager Cliff from DJO who started off being my boss but who is now a great friend!
Have you discovered any new hobbies, exercises or things you like to do during this enforced time off from competing?
I have been rowing every day since I crashed (static rower of course) and really enjoy that. I have also been based for my rehab in The Third Space in Piccadilly and twice a week I go up there and spend all days with the Doctors, Physios, PTs and Therapists whose support, motivation, perseverance and friendship has been invaluable. Through this I have learnt to love London again – I walk everywhere and just go window shopping and site seeing and it really is the best city in the world. I wanted to learn the Guitar and Japanese but those plans have yet to be executed! You would be surprised how many hours out of the day being injured takes up – I have ‘healing’ machines in every room of my cottage!
You have done a lot of public speaking and TV appearances during your rehabilitation, do you feel at ease in front of the camera or is it pretty daunting?
At first No .. In fact public speaking scared me more than racing downhill but I learnt to harness those nerves. It also helps that my speeches have been received really well and people tell me they are really inspiring!
You have remained extremely supportive of your fellow competitors (albeit with frequent reminders you will be back for the trophies)… Has it been difficult not to be resentful at times?
I would love to say no but I did get jealous … How could I not? They were out there doing what I was supposed to be doing. But you can’t resent injury… If you chose a sport like ski racing as your job then getting injured sadly comes with the territory – you have to see it as an opportunity.
On a happy note I see that you attended a Royal wedding recently. Without us being too nosey can you share a few tit bits?
I was so honoured to have been asked – I met Zara through Land Rover and we clicked straight away! It was just a fantastic wedding full of love, surprises and excitement! Sitting next to Prince Harry was an eye opener and having really technical ski chats with William and Kate was surreal but very flattering! I actually wore a basic 1950 coral coloured Oasis dress but teamed it with an extravagant orange, red and pink hat by Cherry Chau. I completed the ensemble with stunning Garrard Diamonds. I think they help me get noticed, as every time I have worn them I have had my photo in Hello Magazine!!
I know that you like your music too and that you saw Munich playing Kingstons’ hippodrome not too long ago. Who are you listening to right now and what is your best gig to date?
I love Munich, they bring something fresh and exciting that I feel music needs. And Slade’s vocals are haunting! Best gig was when my brother took me to a Faithless and Morcheeba festival in Oxford yonkies years ago. But I am proud to say I love everything, my last 3 gigs have been The Saturdays (I know Molly really well) Glee and Munich.
While we have the access to your mind we must grill you on your skiing knowledge so we can improve our holiday experiences….What are your favourite hotels or chalets in mountain resorts?
Oh wow Good question. Mostly we stay where we are put but once a year I am lucky enough to stay in the fantastic hotel Nevai in Verbier (LINK TO REVIEW) which is uber stylish, very comfortable and has a fab breakfast (very important pre big day skiing). Cortina is a fun resort with a lot of decadent old Italian hotels full of ladies in fur coats and fabulous food. In Austria I would recommend St Anton, it had a great party vibe but also somewhere where they take their skiing seriously. Also the good thing about Austria is even the B&B’s are great quality and full on big duvets. Unlike Switzerland and Italy where in the budget end of the scale you will only find thin sheets and rugs to keep you warm. Sounds silly but once again, a good sleep is imperative!
Are there any mountain restaurants that you love going back to?
Le Bisac in Flaine where my family have a small apartment as my friend Claudine owns it and every since I went to school there when I was 11 I have loved returning! I know I should have a lot more answers for you but as a professional skier we sadly don’t indulge in the delights of long mountain lunches nor après ski!
What foods do you enjoy in-between sessions and while you are on the slopes?
Maximuscle meal bars. They are high in protein and low GI but they taste as good as real chocolate. Yum!!
What are your plans for the rest of 2011 and what projects are you currently working on?
Because I still don’t know exactly when I can ski and if I will be able to compete next winter I have been branching out and associating myself with pastures new! For instance, I am a new brand ambassador for Mizuno, I have filmed a pilot TV show, I have done some presenting, after dinner speaking, corporate events for N Peal cashmere who are one of my fabulous sponsors, upped my charity work (last Sunday I competed in the Team Sky TT 10km in London), and very recently started promoting a women’s only insurance company called Bikini. I only get involved with projects I believe in but obviously I am a passionate person so I always find myself busy!
Talking of Insurance, your insurers just told you that because UK Sport dropped your funding as of April you had no medical cover…….
Yes, this really was a stab in the back. Not only have I lost all financial support I have also lost my medical cover even though my leg is still not 100% and when I broke it I was ranked 8th in the world and competing for my country. The lack of support is actually gutting but I will come back better and stronger in lieu of this with the help of companies like DJO Global, The Third Space and Gameready!
Lastly, in the wake of the London riots what are your thoughts on our hosting of the Olympics. Are you nervous about how we will cope and how we will represent our country in front of the world’s eyes?
No not at all. I am a Londoner born and bred and by the time the world is watching I believe we will be ready and proud to host the world’s most spectacular sporting event!
Who are your personal style icons?
People who aren’t afraid to try something new, Alexa Chung gives clothes and styles personality. I also love the old school style of Sophia Loren and the effortless cool of Sienna Miller.
What is on your iPod right now?
Groove Armada Love Box.
Who is your favourite designer?
Best/Worst points to your career?
Best was coming 11th in 2006 Olympics with my whole family watching and backing that result up again 4 years later in Vancouver. Also winning a World Cup run in Soelden, Austria. Worst was 2nd December 2010 when I shattered my leg.
Temptation you wish you could resist?
Indian food and coffee.
What is your favourite city overall?
Paris and London.
What is your best kept secret in your Little Black Book?
As in who??? Ooh that would be telling….
What can’t you travel without?
My IPad, my eye mask and my Elemis Cellular recovery skin treatment!
What is your favourite hotel?
I don’t really DO hotels …. I prefer quaint cottages with secret gardens.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Rock and Rose in Richmond. Fab decor and great food.
What has been your most extravagant purchase?
Other than my house, my teeth! I have a dental obsession … I have had 3 fixed braces!!!
What products can’t you live without?
Elemis sunblock, Elizabeth Arden Eight hour cream and waterproof Dior mascara in blue!
Where is next on your places to visit?
I just ticked off Croatia.. A bunch of us joined my best friend on her honeymoon. It was absolutely stunning!! I want to go back surfing in Bali… But where is next… I have this travel philosophy that the world is so big and amazing that you should never visit the same place twice so on that note I have a lot of planes to catch!!!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Carpe Diem! When my mother died 5 years ago I realized that every minute of every day counts! We are given this great opportunity to go out there and live life so take the chance and be proactive … If you fail, get up and try it again!
What is on your shopping list right now?
Lots of lovely new cashmere from N Peal to give me a head start for winter!
Chemmy will soon launch her new website at www.chemmyalcott.com