As a proud sponsor of Chemmy Alcott we were thrilled to watch her race at Sochi, her fourth Olympics, and place 19th. To come back from a leg break in August and perform so well for Team GB in February is a prime example of a strong women who just does not give up. So we can't imagine she preparing for a quiet life now that she has announced her retirement from ski racing, in fact, we wouldn't be surprised if she was excited about the extra time she'll have to focus on other passions. What's next for Chemmy Alcott?
We spoke to Chemmy who's been taking calls from supportive friends, family and fans who are inspired by her force and vivacity.
"I am overwhelmed by how many people were affected by my career - not just fans of skiing but people who needed inspiration to overcome adversity. Since my announcement I have received hundreds of messages of support and encouragement and I am so grateful once again for everyone's support in the next chapter of my life!"
In an exclusive interview Chemmy sat down with us at Trevor Sorbie as she was getting ready for the charity Snow Camp’s 10th Anniversary Ball. We had time to ask her a whole bunch of questions including what her plans after her final Olympic performance.
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION
How are you getting ready for the Olympics?
A lot of people think you’re just going to the Olympics and the rest of the time you’re training, in ski racing, because it’s all on start numbers you have to perform really well on your world cup and the world cups actually start at the end of October and finish after the Olympics at the end of March. You have to consistently perform every single weekend so when you get to Sochi you’re in the best possible place to ski fast.
How do you go from Olympic athlete to red carpet celebrity?
With a lot of help from professionals. I’d like to say it’s all natural but I’ve definitely tried a few red carpets where I have dressed and styled myself, and it’s definitely noticed by the cruel people at the Daily Mail, it’s not the people who take the photos but the comments underneath. I try not to read them but my lovely brothers find it hilarious when I’m getting slated for how my hair looks, or what dress I’ve worn, and how it was about ten seasons ago, but for me it’s all about feeling confident on the inside when you get people like Jason (Trevor Sorbie) to bring out the best in yourself, you’re always going to feel that and you’ll end up strutting down that red carpet.
Who’s been helping you?
Susan Neville is an amazing friend of mine, she dresses me for a lot of events. I met her through a strange circumstance. I was on Dancing on Ice, and Katarina Witt the German ice-skater/judge she called me ‘too big to be lifted’ we all see that as being too fat, but there’s no word for tall in German, so she said big instead. And actually that was one of the best things about Dancing on Ice because I got invited to this red carpet event, Women in Black, and Susan said ‘we are going to show people you have a sexy athletic body’ and she gave me the most amazing dress that was like ‘wow’ and really ‘look at me’ and then I got to open London Fashion Week on the Friday, I had my six pack out. I think that was a real pivotal moment for me because I got to show people that being sexy isn’t about being a twig, it’s about being comfortable with who you are. You know what, I’ve spent 28 years getting strong and I’m really proud of my big bum, so I show it off. I’ve got glutes that a lot of people want, you know you can get bum implants now and I’ve got them naturally from being a ski racer.
I just started working with Space NK, not working with them but they’re really helpful. Any time I have an event in the city I just pop in there, I might need to buy new makeup but they do my make up for me and they teach me how to do it. I think that’s what’s really great about them, they don’t just do your makeup they show you how they do it so you can go away and do it for yourself.
Being at Trevor Sorbie is really fun. Jason is doing my hair for a red carpet charity event tonight, Snow Ball 10 year anniversary, and it’s not just going to look good tonight but also tomorrow because I may be sporty but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about how I look.
What has been the most pivotal moment of your career?
A massive pivotal moment in my career was when I had to go back and face my demons. A lot of athletes have to do things they are uncomfortable with but not many have to go back to the site where they crashed and potentially ended their career and face their fears straight on. And I did that. It was my first race, two years to the day after I crashed, where my bones broke outside my body, and I had to go back there and that was when I was like ‘right, this is the place it happened’ and I skied really fast, actually qualified for the Olympics in that race, it was the first race back, I was the only one who qualified outside the top thirty, and I didn’t really understand the significance of that moment until I started getting amazing texts from my friends who understood. I actually went to the loo and started crying because it was a relief. I thought, if I can do this, I can do anything.
You’re so busy every second of the day as well as recuperating from injuries, so how do you relax?
I relax by spending time with Dougie. We are very yin and yang and I’m always on the go and he’s very chilled and I think that really helps. I also love Xbox dancing, so when I’ve had a really busy day, I go back and do a few songs of that. It’s a weird way to relax probably for most people but I like to fill every minute. Life’s for living and I think because I lost my mum when I was young and it was quite a shock, I realised I don’t want to miss anything. We call it being a FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.
I’m an organised person. Bizarrely for someone who does the sport I do, I’m very much a control freak. I’m very good at pushing myself and my body, going at speeds most people would gasp at, but if I was driving in the car and someone else was driving that fast, I’d want to be the one in control. I did loads of skydiving when I was younger and I really wanted to learn to skydive on my own but getting there, having to be strapped to someone else, and having them in control over what’s happening, I struggled with a lot.
Losing your mum would have been incredibly difficult, how did you cope?
I think that’s when I matured a lot, she wasn’t even ill, we didn’t even know, it was such a shock and such a big blow that it’s definitely formed my mentality to how I approach life because life was taken away from her too soon, I’ve definitely gone ‘right, what can I do’. But again I think about her all the time, I think about what she would think. With the wedding coming next year, that’s a massive day where you have a mother and daughter bond. But I lost a mum and gained five mums, I’ve got god mothers and sister in laws, and all these women who want to take care of me.
I don’t really have too many wedding plans right now; I know there’s a date that we have in mind and a place. Mum’s buried at Syon Park and it’s really beautiful and we’re hoping to get married there but until the Olympics are over we’re not really going to think about it too much.
When you go to the Olympics with others attending for their first time, do you mother them or guide them?
Actually I’d say that I mother everyone. I’m also one of the older girls in the ski team. I’ve now skied with the Norwegian girls and they’re ten years younger than me, and the reason they bought me into that team is because of my experience so they need someone to help mould the girls, teach them some professionalism, they are amazingly talented, very fiery, but they may need some tactics I can offer so I do tend to mother people. A lot of the young guys and newbies, they don’t want to ask for advice, they see it as weak, so I bring a lot of experience and mother them.
Are you still as much fun when you’re focused?
I’m always fun. I’m laughing and joking in the start gate. I think it’s really important for me to enjoy what I do because of the dangers involved. I have to know that I love this sport and have that passion, but I’m pushing myself to that line and sometimes over that line and I cannot walk away.
What are you plans after the Olympics?
When I retire eventually, I don’t know when that’s going to be, I’ve decided to go into adventuring. There are not a lot of female explorers out there and I’ve got a lot of credentials in that area. My great-great grandfather was the first person to fly across the Atlantic, and at Heathrow there’s a statue of him, John Alcott. I’ve definitely got that spark inside of me that wants to explore and challenge myself physically and there’s not many girls that do it and being a skier it would be a chance to prove I’m tough and it’d be really good to get to that.
The first one I’d definitely start in the mountains being that that’s where my credentials are. We haven’t got a name for it. It would be about challenges. I’d like to make it all about women. I’ve got a few really strong female friends. There’s a woman called ‘The Extreme Mother’ and she’s one of my sponsors actually, and she only found the confidence to take on challenges when she turned 60 years old. Molly from ‘The Saturdays’ a girl I went to school with. Zara Phillips and I are good friends and she would be great because I don’t think the public necessarily get her and it’d be nice to bring her into it.
How do you feel about the underfunding of Alpine Skiers in the UK?
It’s a difficult one because it’s a double edged sword. You have to get results before you get funding, but you can’t get results without funding. The rest of the world has millions of pounds put into their programmes to produce the best ski racers in the world, and we’re trying to do it on a shoestring, which is why I train with the Norwegian girls. But it is what it is and at the end of the day I’m still out there following my dream. When a lot of people have office jobs and are getting sacked so I’m not going to be bitter about it, I’m very lucky to be doing it.
Dougie and I held a fundraiser. There’s a lot of moaning going on at the moment because as speed racers we’re not funded and supported as the other skiers in Britain are. So we hosted an Olympic size fundraiser and I hosted a Question of Sport evening so I finally got to be Sue Barker and that was amazing. Our aim was to raise £20K and we raised £36K. The support I had from the whole sporting fraternity was awesome and a few of the Dancing on Ice guys came too.
Tell us about Dancing on Ice?
I went into Dancing on Ice thinking ‘I’m a sports person, and I love sport and I do a lot of sport’ so I thought I could learn to ice-skate, that would be fine, and I went into it looking at it as a sport thinking I need to do this perfect and that perfect, but actually when you get there, it’s all about entertainment and jazz hands, and that’s something I’ve never done. I’ve never had to act, I’ve never had to be soft in my life, and that was a huge challenge for me, and also losing the control, putting all the control into my Canadian partner.
Where does your passion to ski come from?
My dream when I was a little girl, five years old, I had this dream that I would win an Olympic gold medal and it was so vivid. I remember I was standing on the podium and I could hear the national anthem playing and that’s always been my dream. I’ve been to three Olympics, I’ve come 11th twice, and I’ve been to Sochi, which will be my last games, knowing that I could’ve always done better than 11th but the journey I’ve had over the last four years has been so far from ideal that I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that maybe it isn’t my destiny to win a gold medal, that maybe it’s to show people that against all odds and against all adversity you just have to keep fighting. And that’s what I’m doing. That despite having a broken leg 120 days out from the biggest day of my life, I will be there.
People don’t know how much inner fight they have, they think, oh I can’t do it now. But you can.
The popularity of the Olympics in Britain has put British sports men and women on the map that they can be great ambassadors. Before we were almost like super freaks, because we were out there, following our dream, but actually we’re just normal people.
Who do you think is a medal contender at Sochi?
I think that going into Sochi, it’s the strongest winter team I’ve ever been part of. There’s not just one person who’s going to bring home gold, there’s at least three.
My top three to watch out for are Elise Christie, Shelley Rudman, James Woods and Jenny Jones. Oh wait that’s four!