Facing Your Fears: What the Winter Olympics Can Teach Us About Self-Belief - Women In Sport

Facing Your Fears: What the Winter Olympics Can Teach Us About Self-Belief

January 2022

Vicky Gosling OBE – CEO, GB Snowsport

The clock is ticking down towards the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing and, as I write this, the team of British skiers and snowboarders selected to compete in the competition’s snowsport disciplines are deep in pre-competition training and preparation.

As Chief Executive of GB Snowsport – the National Governing Body responsible for our Olympic and Paralympic ski and snowboard athletes – it’s a source of genuine pride to me that the team we are sending to Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games is comprised of nearly 50% female athletes. More than that, behind the scenes our Olympic Team Manager, our Paralympic Team Manager, and the vast majority of our Discipline Programme Managers are women too.

As a British World Class sport programme, covering both men’s and women’s disciplines, we are almost unique in our level of female leadership both on and off the slopes. The reason, more than any other, that I’m proud of that is because of just how important the skills and values that skiing and snowboarding offer are.

Risk Taking and Self-Belief

Bravery. Determination. Skill. Facing your fears. Overcoming obstacles. Relentless improvement. Camaraderie. Achieving balance. All skills and attributes that are integral to skiing and snowboarding at the highest level, and each of them characteristics that offer huge lifetime benefits for women and girls in every facet of their lives.

Ask any woman who’s competed, participated, supported, or worked in sport, at whatever level, and you’ll hear time and again just how much sport has to offer women and girls. For snowsport, I feel that’s doubly the case. The skills you need to be a success (at any level) in skiing and snowboarding are skills that create success in life, in happiness, in health, in work, and in social settings.

The main reason for this is, I think, that a very clear line exists between two concepts I think are key for women and girls: risk taking, and self-belief.

Getting up on snow, whether it’s on a sit-ski, a snowboard, or a pair of racing skis feels risky the first time. It can feel unnatural. It might get the blood pumping and the adrenalin coursing through you. It may feel, honestly, a little bit scary. The easy thing to do would be to sit down, unclip, and back away. The harder decision is to push away into the slope in front of you.

This something I know first-hand from my own experiences in the military and in the (still notoriously male-dominated) finance sector; overcoming fear in sport empowers you in so many other fields, and its value to women in all works of life is immense.

Pushing Boundaries

Some of our strongest and most successful athletes are women who’ve gone through precisely that journey. Our country’s first skiing Olympic medallist: Izzy Atkin at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Katie Ormerod, one of our nation’s most recognisable Freestyle Snowboarders, who overcame injury heartbreak in 2018 to put herself right back at the top of her sport over the past four years. Aimee Fuller and Chemmy Alcott, who’ve blazed trails on the slopes and in the media world. Makayla Gerken Schofield, who found the confidence to come out as pansexual and has seen her skiing flourish since. Mia Brookes, our 14-year-old snowboarding sensation, who won a podium place at her first ever senor international competition when she was just 13.

As the Games near, I can’t predict what medals we may win, what career-best results we may see, and what near-misses and glorious performances might come to pass. The Olympics is a strange and unpredictable environment. What I can forecast with absolute certainty, though, is that our country will be represented by female athletes who showcase all of the greatest benefits of sport.

That’s something I think we can all be proud about.