Thibe Deseyn: “The YOG will get ski mountaineering more widely known”
At the age of 16, Thibe Deseyn was named “Rookie of the Year 2019” in Switzerland thanks to her brilliant results in the three disciplines of ski mountaineering. Born and raised in Leysin, which will be hosting the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events of the YOG Lausanne 2020, she is already immersed in the Olympic atmosphere and fully intends to win one or more medals in the sprint, individual and team events held at Villars sur Ollon.
How did you get into ski mountaineering?
I used to do athletics, so in the winter I was looking for something to do, and there was a ski mountaineering club in my village, Leysin. I liked it straightaway!
Can you describe the competitions for us?
There are three disciplines: sprint, a race that lasts three or four minutes in which you have to go as fast as possible and make all the changes: take the skins off, carry the skis, go up and go down. It’s a knock-out system, with qualifiers, heats and a final with the six skiers lined up together at the start. The individual has a long climb: up to 900 metres of elevation gain in the cadet category. In general, you do two climbs with a part carrying your skis, and it’s the one who gets up and gets down again fastest who wins. And lastly, there’s the vertical, which is just a climb. At the YOG, this has been replaced by a team competition.
Have you already competed at Villars sur Ollon, and what were your best results?
Yes, the World Championships were held at Villars last year. I don’t know if the YOG will use the same course. I came second twice, in the vertical and the individual, and I was fifth in the sprint. Apart from that, I won the cadet national title in the vertical and team events; I was Swiss runner-up in the individual; and I was third in the sprint. I was named Swiss Rookie of the Year 2019 in my sport.
What are your objectives for your sport’s debut at the YOG?
Well, first I have to qualify, but that should be all right. Then I hope to do my best, and obviously I’d like to win a medal! There shouldn’t be any problem getting a place for the YOG, as I’m second in the country for my age group. I’ll be 17 next March. As for my main rivals from other countries, I haven’t done many international races yet, just the 2019 World Championships, but there’s a lot of competition in Switzerland. Thankfully we all get on well. Otherwise, I think it will be particularly the Italian and French girls.
Which is your favourite event?
I’m most comfortable in the individual competition, and this will be my third season. I’ve still not totally mastered the transitions, and I lose quite a bit of time like that. It’s above all in the sprint where that matters. It’s less important if you lose a few seconds in the individual. I can easily compensate for that as my endurance is good. But in the sprint, I spend too long putting the skis on my back, taking the skins off, putting the skis back on and fixing the bindings to ski down, and I pay the price for that!
What do the YOG mean for you?
They’re something amazing and I’m part of it all. And above all they’re taking place in my back yard in Leysin, where the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events will be held. There are banners and flags everywhere, and when I get home, I see my village decorated with the YOG colours. I like that a lot!
And the arrival of ski mountaineering on the programme?
This will help to get our sport better known. Especially the sprint, which is interesting to watch. Everything happens very fast, and it’s amazing to see the speed of the transitions. In just a few minutes you go up with your skins on, then carry your skis, take your skins off, set up your bindings, ski down, and do a bit of skating at the end. The individual event lasts longer, around an hour. I think that if there’s one discipline you must watch on television or the internet, it has to be the sprint.
Are you hoping to make a career in ski mountaineering?
It’s not a sport in which you can make lots of money, and I’m not intending to give up my studies. But it’s a discipline I like very much, so as long as I can combine it with school, I’ll carry on as long as possible.
What would you say to promote your sport?
It’s a mountain discipline in which you see the landscape differently, in a way you wouldn’t otherwise see it. It’s also a lot of effort, but once you get to the top, skiing down is your reward!
What are you expecting from taking part in the YOG?
I’m eager to meet lots of other athletes of my age from different countries, and discover other sports!