Alpine skier Piera Hudson picked up last week's People's Choice category at the 2018 Hawke's Bay Sports awards. She chats to Mark Story about the tough four years ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

What was your reaction to being voted People's Choice at last week's Hawke's Bay Sports Awards?
I was overjoyed and extremely surprised! I have a huge respect for the other athletes in my category and they all have had a really successful year and career to date. Rugby and basketball are prominent sports in the Bay so I was very grateful for the many people who got behind me as a snow sports athlete and voted for me.

Given it's not a mainstream sport, is it tougher to build a profile as a young alpine skier?
I think it's tough for any athlete in a minority sport as you don't have the resources or the infrastructure as the national mainstream sports. That's why winning things such as the People's Choice award is such a huge boost for being recognised for my achievements, despite alpine ski racing often flying under the radar, this award helps me to build a stronger profile with the Bay community.

Give us an idea of what your weekly training diary looks like.
It's currently off season for me which is a time in the year that I love because I get to unpack the suitcase and get into a consistent routine. During this time I'm in the gym twice a day getting ready for next season by focusing on building as much muscle as possible, increasing my VO2 and working on core stability and agility. Thankfully I have a great support network from amazing HB locals and I can train at Peak Fitness and Health, F45 Hastings, and The Works Wellness Centre.

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For a nation that loves to ski, is it fair to say Kiwis are under-represented at the Olympics?
Definitely. Despite it being one of the biggest sports in Europe and North America, alpine ski racing in particular is still very much a minority sport here in NZ and that is one thing I want to change in my career, but also build my own profile and help build alpine ski racing as a whole so we can get government funding as I think that is the thing that puts most kids/parents off. Myself and the other national team members are all self-funded and therefore we have to spend more time on trying to find personal sponsors and benefactors to stay in the sport. It can sometimes feel like an uphill battle when you're trying to represent NZ on an international level but the governing body doesn't see your sport as Olympic medal contention so they won't support you until you make it on your own. As a country we're hugely into recreational skiing and we have great mountains so we should be able to produce great skiers.

You narrowly missed out on Olympics selection - what will it take to see you compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022?
My coach, Jonny Rice, and I have a great plan for the next four years which we implemented back in February while the 2018 Olympics were going on. We spent a lot of time and money going to certain qualifying races and flying to test events so that we could tick all the boxes for Olympic selection so when the announcement was made that I wasn't selected for the team we took a step back and could finally change a lot in my skiing technique and also my mental approach and the outcome of that were some really exciting PBs at the end of the season. Going forward the plan is to stick to our guns, work hard and enjoy skiing fast again without feeling like a puppet. I'm excited for the next four years, I want to achieve a lot and at the end of the day be the first person to take Hawke's Bay to the Winter Olympics.