Segal crowned world champion

AFTER a year plagued by injury and poor form, Anna Segal’s slopestyle gold medal at the Freestyle World Ski Championships in Utah last week was just the tonic.

“It felt amazing, but it was also a huge confidence boost after a couple of injuries over the past 12 months,” said Segal, 24, who only days earlier finished a lowly seventh at the Winter X Games.

“I knew I was better than that and I wanted to prove myself.”

Slopestyle competitors complete a run down a man-made course with big jumps, rails and many other features.

The aim is to perform tricks on each feature, and athletes are judged on the difficulty, technicality and creativity of the tricks, as well as the style of their skiing as they go down the mountain.

It’s been a long road for Segal, who was close to fulfilling her lifelong ambition of representing Australia at an Olympic Games when she was cut down by a serious knee injury in 2006. Segal had been in Canada with the Australian Development Mogul Team – seen as a fast-track to an Olympic Games berth – when she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament.

“It made me re-evaluate things and I decided that when I recovered, I wanted to give freestyle skiing a go. I thought that this would mean that I wouldn’t get
to go to the Olympics, as it wasn’t an Olympic sport, but it was the area of skiing that I loved most.”

But there could be Olympic gold in Segal’s future yet, with the International Olympic Committee to announce on Tuesday if slopestyle skiing will be introduced at the winter Games in Russia in 2014.

“I think that if slopestyle makes it into the Olympics in 2014, it will really push up-and-coming slopestyle skiers, so by 2014 the standard will be a lot higher and a perfect run will be necessary to win gold.”

Despite her natural ability and passion for her sport, skiing wasn’t Segal’s first choice. She tried her hand at gymnastics and swimming before strapping on the skis.

“My mum took me out on the snow when I was three and apparently I whinged a lot when I first started, but by the time I was seven it was all I wanted to do.

“We would drive to Mount Buller every Friday night and back to Melbourne every Sunday night.”

So passionate is Segal about freestyle skiing, that she is spearheading a campaign to encourage young girls to take up the sport.

“For any girls interested in getting involved in freestyle skiing, they should check out the Chicks with Stix website.

“It’s an organisation that we started last year aimed at inspiring young female skiers to participate in freestyle workshops, training camps and competitions, and we will be holding free coaching clinics at a number of resorts across Australia in winter.”

JOSHUA LEVI