Jenny Owens: comeback and potential world first
Jenny Owens has been one of Australia’s most successful skiers. A speed racer and ski cross exponent she is targeting her first love – alpine skiing – for a fourth Winter Olympics. If successful it may just be a world first – going from one Winter sport to another then back again at the highest level. She discusses her decision and plans in an exclusive interview with The Snow Gauge.
In a country where it can be brutally hard to get by as a pro on two planks Jenny’s done so for nearly two decades, first as a successful alpine skier then as a medal-winning ski cross racer.
A three-time Winter Olympian, she is one of only two Australians to register a top-ten alpine result at a Games (ninth in the combined 2002 Salt Lake City). She then went on to win multiple World Cup and X Games medals in ski cross. Jenny competed at two further Olympics (2010 and 2014).
After much deliberation Jenny, 38, is targeting a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang – in downhill, super combined and potentially super G.
Why the comeback?
I believe I can be successful again in this sport I know and love. I believe I am still at an age where I can reach my sporting goals. The challenge that I am presenting to myself is a big one. It will be hard to reach. It will not be easy; in any way, shape, or form. In a sense, that’s the whole point! It’s big and bold and audacious. It’s certainly not what people expect of me now, or of athletes in my position more generally. That’s what I would like to prove to myself – if anything.
How and when did you decide?
I wanted to make sure the decision I was making was real and not just because I was missing my old life or couldn’t find anything in my new one to keep me engaged. I did miss parts of my old life but certainly not all of it. And I have found a way to be fully engaged with my business, WinterFit. But still the question was sitting there. So, I went to Canada last northern winter to just try some training and racing again, mostly to see if I enjoyed it – and, I really loved it! I guess in some form I did have a sort of plan to compete at World Champs in 2017 but I also needed to confirm that’s what I really wanted to pursue.
What events will you be chasing?
I have a plan and a series of progressions with events and goals to make sure I am on target. I don’t expect to just waltz in to World Champs and compete.
World Champs is the big goal for me this coming northern winter season. The event is being held at St Moritz. I’ve produced a lot of my best results on the World Cup tour there in the past. I like the place and the race hill. I’m excited about St Moritz and will keep that as my main focus for the year. There’s a lot of in-between steps to take before that too but I won’t go into too much detail here!
Longer-term, my plan is to continue to improve and refine my racing and try and qualify for my fourth Olympics in 2018. I will probably be the oldest athlete on the Australian team but I was already the oldest at Sochi, so nothing new there!
What are your expectations?
My expectations for myself have always been high! I am quite self-critical, always expect to perform at my best and am usually very disappointed in myself if I don’t do that. But what athlete isn’t!?
There aren’t many (if any) sports in the world where your aim is to be in the top 30 fastest women in the world. In Alpine skiing, to place in the top 30 means you’ve made it – at least to some extent! Everyone wants to make the top 30 when new to the World Cup tour, it’s everyone’s goal. This is my aim the coming season: to place in the top 30 in some of the World Cups. My goals for World Champs of course are higher.
What are the steps – and gulp, what if you miss out on qualifying?
I have a lot of steps. They start from my fitness and strength, to my mental plan, through to which races I will compete at, how I will fund it all; who I will train with – it’s a long list. As long as there aren’t too many roadblocks along the way, I think it will work.
I plan to train this coming winter with Thredbo Race Club while in Australia – they have the best race program. I plan to do all the Australian Alpine events to get some race experience back under my feet before heading back to NZ (snow dependent), where I will work with International Racer who I’ve trained with a lot in the past.
From there I’ll head to North America and Europe to continue skiing with a focus on NorAm, Europa Cups and some World Cups to try and then qualify for World Champs.
Of course, there is a chance that I may not qualify. There is always that chance and I’d be silly to think otherwise. I am not sure what the criteria are for World Champs yet. I have heard a rumour they will be similar to last World Champs in Vail, Colorado. I believe it’s reachable as long as I keep on track and focus on what I need to do along the way, to get there.
Are there any logistical/association hurdles you need to overcome?
There are always politics in sport but I honestly hope not. I don’t see that what I want to do is any different to any other Australian athlete. I see myself as an equal with anyone else but obviously I have a lot more years of experience at the higher levels of sport. I think that experience will help me reach my goals. I feel like I’m a much better, more mature, physically and mentally stronger athlete than I was when I last competed in alpine and that also will help me get there.
Finally, can we mark you down for a world first if you pull this off?
To be honest, I’m not sure … I have competed at the Winter Olympics in two different disciplines which is a first for winter sports in Australia, so I would assume going back to compete in a discipline I was successful in 13 years ago, is probably one as well. I am definitely the first to go back to Alpine tour, after competing on the Ski Cross tour in any country. I’m OK with firsts!