“I want to ski the best I can and have no regrets before boarding the plane back home.”
French skier Marie Bochet was one of the younger ones, just 12 years old, when she took part in the first IPC Alpine Skiing development camp in 2006.
Four years later, she was a Paralympian and at the tender age of 19, she dominated the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain, winning all five events she competed in.
This has made Bochet one of the faces of Paralympic sport in France, where expectations couldn’t be higher going into the season before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
“I feel more ready than I did four years ago [in Vancouver],” Bochet said. “I am not naïve to how difficult the season is going to be, but in training sessions, I’ve managed to do what I’ve wanted to do.”
“I have more confidence in my skiing than I did in 2010. After all, I’ve been preparing for this over the last three years.”
At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, she just missed the podium in Whistler, finishing in fourth place in both the standing slalom and super combined. Bochet also finished seventh in the giant slalom and eighth in the downhill and super-G.
That won’t fly this time around.
“There, I was young. I had never attended a big event and I didn’t know about the media pressure or the importance of the Paralympics.”
“Today, I am more mature, older and my experiences in 2010, Sestriere in 2011 and La Molina in 2013 will obviously be very valuable.”
At the heart of those experiences were a few days in the Deux Alpes, France, in a first of its kind experience.
Bochet, along with Austrians Markus Salcher and Claudia Loesch, a 2010 Paralympic gold medalist, and Canada’s Alexandra Starker were part of the IPC Alpine Skiing development camp’s inaugural class.
Together, the 55 youngsters who took part won 15 medals at the La Molina 2013, 10 of them gold.
Now they all will be competing for the same prize this March in Sochi and Bochet heads there as an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) One to Watch.
“We were all children and I never imagined that one day, we would find each other together at World Cups, much less the World Championships, or even the Paralympic Games. I think we were careless. We just wanted to share moments together despite the language barrier.”
Yes, the language barrier. Starker, Bochet’s roommate spoke no French, while she spoke no English. They managed to communicate through the universal language of sport.
Though the camp was designed to spot and develop elite level athletes, bringing them together in the process, for Bochet, it also allowed her to meet those who shared her love of para-sport.
“I think I was still too young for the camp to have an impact on my body, or my technical skiing,” Bochet said. “But it did reinforce the idea of competing in handisport competition. And meeting other disabled children also helped me accept my own [impairment].”
Nobody knew it at the time, but it also helped her become one of the world’s most dominant skiers.
These days IPC Alpine Skiing runs a European Para-Snow Sport Youth Circuit to introduce youngsters to skiing and develop future generations of champions, the next of which will take place from 5 January 2014 in Bischofwiesen, Germany.
Showing how effective the development activities are, Bochet’s 2012-13 season was nearly perfect. She won five gold medals at La Molina and numerous World Cup events. Only once, at the World Cup finals in Sochi, was rival Andrea Rothfuss of Germany able to catch her in the downhill.
Even with that success, there are no set goals and expectations for the new season. Bochet, now more mature, wants to peak at the right time, hoping to use three months of competitions to prepare for Krasnaya Polyana.
“I do not have a medal target. I want to express myself,” Bochet said. “I want to ski the best I can and have no regrets before boarding the plane back home.”
The next IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup of 2013-14 takes place in Panorama, Canada, from 8-14 January before moving to Copper Mountain, USA, from 17-20 January.
The World Cup finals will be held just weeks before Sochi 2014 in Tarvisio, Italy, from 24-27 February.