LEAD STORY - ALPINE SKIING: Bay teen keeps cool to make NZ history

ANENDRA SINGH
Between the powdery slopes of the Swiss Alps and the enchanting runs of Canadian skifields, Piera Hudson doesn't have much time to soak up the Hawke's Bay sun.
But rain or shine, the 13-year-old junior world-class skier is making the most of her next few days at her family's Central Hawke's Bay farm before she goes back to Woodford House for the second term of school.
And come June 26 she'll be picking up her skis and jetting off with mother Fiona to Wanaka to join her Cardrona HBC team.
``Over here I'm able to walk around in T-shirts - it's freezing over there (Switzerland),' she tells SportToday after her fourth season training in Europe.
It's all been worthwhile for the youngster who last week finished sixth overall at the end of the 17th Whistler Cup 2009 competition, in British Columbia, based on the FIS Alpine World Cup point system.
The Kiwi Junior alpine ski racer, set the tone for Ski Racing New Zealand who fielded their largest junior team, with 14 K1 and K2 level (aged between 12 and 15 years) athletes making up one of the strongest junior teams this country has assembled.
Four hundred competitors participated in the three-day event at the Canadian resort, featuring 18 nations competing in disciplines of slalom, giant slalom, K1 Kombi and K2 Super G.
Hudson, who competed in the K1 girls, made New Zealand alpine ski racing history with three top-10 results including sixth in the giant slalom, seventh in Kombi and eighth in slalom out of a field of 96. That prompted Ski Racing NZ chairman Tony Oxenvad to say on their website: ``To see Piera consistently finish well within the top-10 in all three disciplines against a strong international field demonstrates strong skills and a promising career ahead.'
Hudson has been under coach Ardi Bernasconi from the begin ning but he was among a stable of coaches for the Whistler Cup campaign, including Grant Jamieson, Sam Zander and John Armstrong.
A delighted Bernasconi said Hudson had a bright future which was a testimony to her dedication.
Hudson already has three gold medals in the Swiss series and an enviable 12th and 18th world rankings in the Abetone and Topolino race events in Italy.
It didn't escape the teenager's attention that she had a feel of some of the slopes in Canada that will become centre stage for some of the world's best alpine skiers during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
``I did some free skiing on a couple of potential runs (at Whistler).

In Canada, what was different was the length of runs. I skied in runs that were about 14km long but in Switzerland they are about 7km or even smaller than that,' she said.
An impressive line-up of Canadian professional skiers were guest speakers during the Whistler Cup event for the juniors.
``It was definitely a good experience there knowing that the Winter Olympics will be held there in a year's time,' Hudson said.
She still draws the odd query about competing as a New Zea lander in European and North American-dominated contingents doing the international junior circuit. The last renowned Kiwi alpine skier was Annalise Coberger who won a slalom silver medal in 1992 in Albertville, France, thus earning the distinction of becoming the first Winter Olympic medallist for a Southern Hemisphere country.
Hudson, a third-former who often finds it difficult to pick up on core subjects considering she's on the slopes to make up for the 150 hours required to be on a par with her European counterparts, is indebted to her teachers and friends who help her bridge that gap.
The former Havelock North Intermediate School pupil draws some inspiration from Amercian professional Lindsey Vonn.
``She's had a good season and no one picked her to do so well,' said Hudson of the world champion skier who drew primetime TV in the US after her success.
Vonn (nee Kildow) is the first American woman to win back-to-back overall World Cup championships (2008-09).
The 24-year-old has also won World Cup discipline champion ships in downhill (also back-to-back) and Super G (the first American woman to do so). With 22 World Cup wins in four disciplines (downhill, Super G, slalom and super combined) and two World Championship gold medals (plus two world champ silvers), she has become the most successful US woman skier in World Cup history.
The 2008 CHB female sportsperson of the year, Hudson hopes to compete in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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