Young Queenstown skier Toby Dickson is only 14 but he’s already got his heart set on winning an X Games medal.
Toby, a member of the national Youth Olympics development quad, is the youngest freeski competitor at the Winter Games.
But that doesn’t phase him – he’s just eager to soak up the experience and enjoy himself.
“I guess it’s a little nerve-racking but it’ll be fun competing with all those other guys,” he says.
Toby’s among a key group of youngsters who – if they stick to a disciplined plan of exercise, training, stabilising and competing – are likely to become future Kiwi Winter Olympians.
He’s been picked alongside teens like local snowboarders Hamish Bagley and Lyon Farrell, freeskier Alec Savery and Wanaka’s Jackson Wells – younger brother of current world freeski No. 1 Jossi.
All 24 kids in the squad will eventually vie for selection for the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, next January.
Snow Sports New Zealand coaching and sport development director Adam Dooney, who helped select the youth squad, says he’s looking for kids from as young as 10 to groom into finely-tuned athletes by the time they’re in their mid-20s.
“It’s a very, very young sport and we tend to focus on four-year Olympics cycle periods,” Dooney explains.
“People outside the sport might think, ‘This person’s only 16 years old, cut them some slack’, but in four years’ time they’ll be getting into some serious events and from then on it’ll be the next four years of elite skiing or snowboarding.”
Teens with still-developing bodies go through “special regimes” to get them to where they want to be – whether that’s in freeskiing, snowboarding or alpine ski racing.
“These snow sports are absolutely brutal on the body,” Dooney says.
“They have to focus on staying strong and doing the right thing with their off-snow training, activating their muscles properly.”
Toby’s parents pay 21-year-old Otago University student Hugo McChesney to help coach their son towards his dreams.
McChesney insists he doesn’t put pressure on the Year 10 Wakatipu High student to perform.
“I want fun to be the primary objective.
“The only pressure I do put on him is to keep up with his school work.”
Toby, who competes in the Winter Games’ freeski slopestyle event at Snow Park in the Cardrona Valley today, says he’s excited about what the future holds for him.
“I want to get as good as I can. I’d like to help raise the bar of freeskiing and hopefully make it to the X Games and the Winter Olympics.”