Sport: Freestyle Skiing
Event: Women’s Ski Cross
Local Club: Mont-Tremblant
By Ethan Diamandas
Knitting — it’s an activity that grounds skier Hannah Schmidt.
“I try to just ease my mind, not think about whatever the day brought or anything like that skiing-wise,” Schmidt told the Sports Pages from Canmore, Alta.
The relatively mundane hobby has grown on her, and now she knits (mostly just small towels or dish cloths) to help unwind between competitions.
It’s a funny contrast for Schmidt, who races ski cross, a chaotic sport where four racers bomb down a winding course all at once, passing each other and flying off jumps before crossing the finish line.
The adrenaline is big for her, and it’s part of the reason she switched from alpine to ski cross in 2018. Her love for skiing is the second reason, with her first run down the hill coming at age two.
“[My family has] always had that passion for skiing,” Schmidt said.
Her family’s roots in the sport run deep. Schmidt grew up skiing at Mont Tremblant with her dad, Bevin, and her brother, Jared. Naturally, Hannah was destined for high-level competition, and in 2019 she polished off her first full year on the world circuit.
As a kid, the Olympics were always a dream.
“I’ve had that goal and dream for about 10 to 12 years now,” she said.
For the 27-year-old Schmidt, the 2026 Winter Games in Italy were the benchmark. Currently ninth place in the 2022 World Cup standings, a trip to the Beijing Olympics seemed possible but never guaranteed.
That’s why the Dunrobin, Ont., native was so excited when she, along with her brother, were named to Canada’s Olympic ski cross team in mid-January.
“I was a bit [surprised],” Schmidt said. “I know I had the results this year and I knew it was going to be tight.”
Schmidt’s mom, L.A., on the other hand, was ecstatic.
“It’s amazing. I’ll probably cry,” L.A. told the Sports Pages after the announcement. “It’s pretty incredible. Hard work pays off.”
The days after the news broke were a “whirlwind,” Schmidt said. But, as the days count down until her event, her goal is to stay relaxed and downplay the magnitude of the moment.
“I’m trying not to think of it, even though it is the Olympics, not as much of a big deal,” Schmidt said. “I want to kind of think of it as a regular World Cup on our circuit, just mentally for me to kind of ease the stress of it being the Olympics.
“But I do think it is a big thing. And I think it’s pretty awesome to be able to do that with my brother.”
Schmidt’s also had the benefit of chatting with a sports psychologist every few weeks. Alpine Canada assigned two specialists to her team, and those conversations have helped improve her self-esteem.
“You got to believe in yourself,” Schmidt said. “I think, for me, it was hard to say that at the beginning, and to have that confidence and belief that I can actually get down a course.”
Mental strength is a big factor in competition, Schmidt said, especially since ski cross produces so many possible outcomes.
“Say you come second in qualification, and you might get bumped out first round, just because something happened in heats or someone fell or you fell,” she said. “Literally anything can happen.
“I think the biggest mental barrier is that anything can happen and if it happens poorly, then you get down on yourself.”
The flipside to that unpredictability can be equally advantageous. Take Jared’s performance in Georgia during last year’s World Cup circuit: his teammate, Brady Leman, a gold medalist in Pyeongchang, took a hard fall in the final heat and Jared cruised to a third-place finish.
Schmidt knows she competes in a wild sport, which is why she’s setting very loose goals for Beijing.
“I’m not going to put a number on my finish,” she said. “I think I’m just gonna go in with an open mind and ski the best and the way I know how I can ski.”
But when the pandemonium subsides, Schmidt will calm her mind by knitting, having planned to bring her needles to Beijing.
“My goal is to try to figure out how to knit socks,” laughed Schmidt. “So that might be my Beijing task.”
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