By Dan Plouffe
If you’re a basketball player, hitting 6 out of every 10 shots gives you an excellent field goal percentage. If you’re a baseball player, a .600 batting average would be absolutely phenomenal. Now, if you’re an alpine ski racer? Winning 6 out of 10 races is pretty much unfathomable, unless you’re Andreea Nicolici.
The Camp Fortune athlete from Ottawa has been on absolute tear since the calendar turned to 2023, with FIS race wins in Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern U.S.
“They were my first wins ever, so I was very excited,” highlights the 18-year-old. “I was happy I could finally do it, because it’s been a few years of just second, second, second, second.”
Last season, Nicolici placed second on five occasions – an almost comical number of runner-up performances given that each of those races had between 62 and 107 entrants.
“It was still very exciting for me,” she underlines. “But I just wanted to take that last step. Even now, I don’t feel satisfied. I just look forward and try to get the next level.”
Nicolici got her start in the sport when her parents taught her how to ski while holding her between their legs at Camp Fortune. They were both recreational skiers, but when friends of theirs enrolled their kids in a Nancy Greene ski racing program, they figured Nicolici may as well try it too.
“My parents were trying to put me in as many sports as possible to keep me active and they put me in skiing and it clicked,” recounts Nicolici, who also participates in soccer, mountain biking and running.
Nicolici made way onto the National Capital Outaouais Ski Team and now Team Quebec. After her strong 2021-2022 season, she decided to take a year off from her studies and make skiing her primary focus.
“I really enjoy that,” signals the Glebe Collegiate Institute grad. “I’m the kind of person who likes to devote everything to a single thing. Honestly a little too much – I have to find little hobbies here and there to remind myself that there are other things that exist outside of skiing.”
Nevertheless, it’s a little more relaxed approach that’s fuelled Nicolici’s rise to new heights, she notes. She’s now less focused on her results and the performances of other skiers.
“I’m finding what works for me personally,” Nicolici explains. “I tell myself on race day that I’m not here to race. I’m here to do the work to unlock new skills under the pressure.”
All downhill from here
Once Nicolici broke through for her first win on Jan. 3 at Mount St. Louis Moonstone near Orillia, ON, she’s returned to the top step of the podium over and over again. She earned her second Ontario Cup victory the next day at Moonstone, and then made it three in a row with a Quebec Super Series win on Jan. 28 at Mont Ste Marie, followed by a fourth-place finish.
Racing at home at Camp Fortune, Nicolici did not finish the first event on Jan. 30, then came back to win the next day.
In four Eastern Cup races from Feb. 7-10 at Burke Mountain in Vermont, Nicolici won two races, finished second in another and had one DNF.
After this season, Nicolici says she may jump into international skiing if the opportunity is there, or join an NCAA program.
“I want to get on the national team, but first, I need to start crushing Nor-Ams – that’s the first step,” indicates Nicolici, who made her North American Cup circuit debut in February 2022, placing 37th, 23rd and 27th at a trio of races near Collingwood, ON.
Nor-Am Cups coming to Camp Fortune & Mont Ste-Marie on Feb. 23-24
Nicolici will soon have the opportunity to compete in a Nor-Am Cup event on her home hill. Camp Fortune and Mont Ste-Marie are set to host men’s and women’s slalom and giant slalom races on back-to-back days next week.
Featuring skiers Canada and USA as well as a half-dozen European countries, the continental circuit provides an opportunity for rising racers to qualify for World Cup events.
Nor-Ams are a higher level than her usual races, but Nicolici will be on the same slalom course where she just won by 1.29 seconds in a two-run combined time of 1:32.64 – a considerable margin in alpine skiing.
“This is a unique opportunity for local racers to race on the terrain they have grown up with against international competitors,” Fortune Nor-Am race chief Philippe Richer says by email, noting it’s also a great chance to showcase the hill and the fantastic local volunteers involved in the sport.
“They will also be cheered and supported by their own crowd,” he adds. “It is a dream come true for local athletes to dive into the world stage of ski racing on their own hill where they learned to ski.”
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