She’s a Winter Olympian from Perth who will have the busiest schedule of any Australian at the Games in a sport that receives very little love from a country focused on freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
But Greta Small is regarded as Australia’s best alpine skiing hope since Zali Steggall.
It has been a circuitous journey for the 18-year-old, who started skiing at Victoria’s Mt Buffalo and Mt Hotham, moved to Western Australia and has still managed up to nine months a year in Austria for the last six years.
A two-time medallist at the junior world championships in the under-18 division, Small is ranked in the top 10 in her age group for many of her disciplines and will tackle downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom and super combined in Sochi.
It’s a program that will see her on the slopes for up to 14 days during next month’s Games.
“I’ll be pretty busy – non stop really,” she said from Austria.
“Once the Games start I think there are only three free days for me.
“But my ultimate goal is to win the all-round crystal globe (the World Cup trophy for the best performer across all disciplines), so I’m not looking to specialise at the moment, so competing in all the events is a real learning curve.”
With booming results in other winter sports in Australia it would have been easy for Small to transfer her mountain skills elsewhere but she decided from an early age to give racing a real go.
“It was all or nothing. If I wanted to take up the sport with all the sacrifices I had to make, especially coming from Australia, for me I had to give it everything from 10 years old,” she said.
“I just loved going fast and there wasn’t anything else for me.”
While she struggles for money, an IOC solidarity scholarship and financial support from the WA Institute of Sport and surfer Layne Beachley’s foundation has helped.
“If it wasn’t for that it would have been pretty tough,” Small said.
Small travels with her father Boyd who is her tech support as she can’t afford to have a coach with her at international events.
Some top-20 results are the ambitious aim in Sochi, which she’ll use as a tester for the PyeongChang Games in South Korea in 2018.
There she’d like to finish in the top 10, or top five.
Small is yet to meet Steggall, the 1998 slalom bronze medallist in Nagano and 1999 world champion in the discipline, but her influence is obvious.
“She’s done it before so I know it is possible,” she said.