All the Small things: the tough lot of an Aussie ski racer
Greta Small is Australia’s best alpine skiing prospect of the last decade. The world’s fastest slalom skier in the super combined at last year’s Junior World Championships, she already has Olympic, World Cup and senior World Championship events under her belt at just 20 years of age. Recently returned from a serious injury, Small says her knee won’t hold her back. But the hefty cost of participating in the sport just might.
It’d be churlish to suggest Greta Small’s alpine skiing career has cost her a house. Not in the inflated property markets of Sydney, Melbourne or in her home town of Perth anyway.
But a unit? Now that wouldn’t be a stretch.
“In terms of each season how much are we putting our hands into our pockets compared to the (Olympic Winter Institute scholarship)? Probably $80,000 – $90,000 of my funds for this season,” she says, making it pretty clear her parents are largely picking up the tab. “That’s in terms of funding my season and being able to train and travel to competitions.”
It’s a price that the Small family is willing to pay. At least for now.
Injured for the best part of eight months, Small did a “job lot” on her knee while skiing one of the last events of the season in Japan last April.
“I completely tore my knee apart. I did my ACL, MCL and meniscus,” she muses.
Eight months on she made a successful return to the slopes in France and has moved on to Austria to train but is in no great rush to compete this season because as she puts it she “has enough race experience”.
If you haven’t heard of Small, originally from one of the least snowy states in the land – Western Australia – you might think that comment could be a little rich. But a close look at some of her results suggests that the Mt Hotham-based skier has some exceptional talent. She has a cross section of speed and technical experience with the super combined seemingly tickling her fancy most.
After bombing the super-G component of that event at last year’s World Junior Championships, Small then laid down the fastest slalom time recorded. She finished 11th overall. Small was 18th a month earlier in the senior super combined at the alpine world championships and 15th at the Sochi Winter Olympics back in 2014.
Her aim is to be back competing strongly for next season’s World Championships in St Moritz.
The only alpine skier in Australia funded under the Olympic Winter Institute, Small is grateful but says it essentially is enough to cover about one to two months of a season which sees her flit between European bases, a range of northern hemisphere locations for events and then back to the Victorian high country for the Australian winter.
What she wants is to get a top 30 world ranking, link up with another national team to train and be able to afford to take a coach to all her races.
In Australia that remains a chicken-egg scenario – whereby results are required to get more funding but money is desperately needed to help achieve those results. And with an emphasis on winter sports that are seen as having less depth globally and more likely to get the kind of outcomes that government support ultimately demands – such as freestyle skiing and snowboarding, alpine skiing has largely been left in the lurch.
But Small wants to stay true.
“My current financial funding from my family is not going to be forever. We’ll see what the next two years brings and what is possible after that. I love what I am doing and wouldn’t want to change it,” she says.
“A number of years ago when they tried to get members of the junior team (in Australia) to try out ski cross I stayed far away. I am an alpine skier and I love racing and that’s my sport. I want to get to the top.”
Greta Small is sponsored by: Shred, Artech, Komperdell and Atomic.