Growing up in Ireland, Kirsty McGarry’s friends never quite appreciated her passion for alpine ski racing.
That’s not surprising considering the Emerald Isle has no skifields.
But McGarry, a 24-year-old Winter Olympian and NZ Winter Games athlete, has been on skis most of her life.
“I actually grew up half in France because my parents were both ski instructors so I spent a lot of time there as a child and went to school there like one term out of three …until we moved back to Ireland full-time when I was 10,” she says.
By then McGarry was hooked – she’d begun getting podium finishes and went on to represent Ireland in international children’s races before getting her FIS licence at 14.
She spent her school holidays travelling to France and New Zealand to train and compete.
“Skiing wasn’t as popular when I was younger. I guess they didn’t understand what ski racing was – some of my friends still don’t,” she says.
“Skiing in Ireland is still not considered as a [sport] with the sports council.”
McGarry’s entering the slalom and giant slalom events at Coronet Peak tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. She had hoped to enter today’s skier-cross event at Cardrona but couldn’t because she wasn’t told about the ompulsory training day yesterday.
She retired from alpine ski racing due to lack of funding and switched to skier-cross – but returned to the discipline after having hip surgery last September.
Winter Games is a chance for her to get some “more experience and some good training”.
“I’m coming back into alpine after a few years so I’m trying not to put too much pressure on. And I’ll get some training in and be up against other decent athletes to see where I am after two years and enjoy myself.”
McGarry’s been confirmed on the Irish team for next year’s Winter Olympics but with three more years of a physiotherapy degree, she’s unsure what her future holds with ski racing after Vancouver in 2010.
“I haven’t decided yet [about retiring]. I’m looking to Vancouver now [to] see how that goes and then make a decision after that.”