Chemmy Alcott Mar 2021 4 min read 564 views
I once was so young, ambitious and focused that I didn’t believe there was a life after skiing. Yes, I know, this was very ignorant but it helped me stay in the present and channel all my focus and energy into achieving my short term goal, to become an Olympic skier.
After my fourth Olympics in Sochi, I remember the BBC being at the finish asking me about my presumed retirement announcement. I quickly shut them down. I was high on adrenaline and more pain free in that moment than I had been in the preceding three years. “Not now. I want more.” Was my reply.
I don’t believe age is relevant if you still have the passion, speed and health behind you. I definitely had the former, the speed was coming back (I was only 1.8 seconds off the win at that Olympics with a big mistake) but my health, in hindsight, would never fully return.
I went on to the next world cup in Crans Montana and crashed in the compression, jarring my leg in the fall. Before flying the next evening to Sweden for a world cup I popped into Zurich to see my surgeon (I mean my last surgeon - there were of course many around the world preceding him). He had seen my crash on TV. In that 15 minute consultation the rest of my life would be mapped out. He said to me “Chemmy, you love to ski. Would you sacrifice your love of racing for a lifetime of skiing?” I was confused about what he was asking. But deep inside he and I both knew that I had succeeded in skiing, coming back from injury and overcoming adversity because I was always driven by my passion to ski and my love for the mountains.
Even for a moment visualising my future without this in any form made me panic. He had seen what it meant to me to give myself that one final chance in Sochi. He had supported that goal but now he said the risks I was taking with the amount of metal work in my leg and the broken tibia that would never heal, were so great that if I was to crash one more time there was a chance I would lose my lower limb all together!
It sounds brutal. But in a way having someone I held in such high regard make this monumental decision for me was the easiest way out.
Yes, I wanted to go on. But not if it meant I was jeopardising the rest of my career in the mountains. I have seen first-hand athletes push their bodies so far beyond their physical limits to the extent that they are forced to retire and not be able to live the life they worked so hard to achieve.
What I didn’t realise was how fortunate I would be to turn my passion into my work.
The moment the penny dropped was when I was free skiing with a sponsor and the press. One asked sheepishly towards the end of the day if they could go down and film me skiing. Obviously I am aware I am fast but I had never considered the skills I learnt from ski racing to be something of an art form that people would want to video and re watch. In fact during my stint on Dancing On Ice I used to be jealous of the pros who had mostly been professional athletes and then in retirement become entertainers because of their beautiful, effortless skill.
From that moment on I became confident that I had something to offer in retirement. The coaching, analysis side from beginners to elite is something I love. Helping someone discover that eureka moment that changes their skiing is incredible. And now being lucky enough to be able to use that knowledge to dissect the different elements of the sport I love for TV on Ski Sunday.
In a way, the day I wore my last race bib my world was just beginning. One strand of course stayed ever present - skiing. But I added motherhood, business, coaching, tv presenting, podcasting and after dinner speaking to my life, making it a lot more rounded and most importantly, a lot more fulfilling.