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EDITION 24 - DECEMBER 2008
And you thinks it's cold at home?
Scotland's Nordic Skiing star Andrew Musgrave tells us about life in the world's coldest places...

Catching up with Andrew Musgrave is not easy. His family life has seen him spend time in Dorset, Norway, Alaska and Aberdeenshire. And he is still only 18.

But it is the places he has yet to visit that are the most intriguing. The next winter Olympics in Vancouver is top of his itinerary.

Musgrave is prepared to sacrifice a lot to achieve that aim. He left his home in Insch, Aberdeenshire, in the middle of October to take up residence in Sjusjoen in Norway with the Great Britain Nordic Ski team and coach Al Dargie.

ITWZ managed to track him down close to the Arctic Circle in Kuusamo, Finland, where – at 3pm – it was already growing dark.

It was on the eve of Musgrave’s first World Cup race at senior level as the GB team competed in their first such competition for 14 years.

Having spent his primary school years in Alaska, it seems only natural that Musgrave would feel at ease in the snow but it is the work he has done since arriving in Aberdeenshire that has seen him make outstanding progress.

Huntly Nordic Ski Club took him under their wing and, now part of the Highland Institute of Sport, he is starting to get the back-up he needs to make tracks in his sport.

“My dad works in the oil business so I have moved around a lot,” he explains, “I was born in Dorset, spent five years on Shetland and then from the age of six until I was 11, I lived in Anchorage in Alaska.

“It was where I first started to ski properly. I’m sure I did a bit of downhill and even possibly cross country when I was a toddler as my parents lived in Norway and took us to the slopes a lot.

“I didn’t really do any competitive skiing in Alaska but my older brother Ben skied for Alaska and that’s where I probably got my enthusiasm for it.

“I just heard last year that one of the girls who was in my class at school in Alaska is now on the American team and I didn’t even know she was still skiing.”

Five A passes in his Higher exams at school and two As and a B at Advanced Higher level gave him the academic foundations to take a year out and dedicate it to pursuing his Olympic dream.

The early signs are promising. In Bruksvallama, Sweden, in November he won the junior race and was 10th in senior race and it led to an interview on Swedish television.

To put this into perspective, he finished 6.8% behind the Swedish world cup team skier Anders Sodergren who has 13 world cup podiums, including two victories to his name.

Yet Musgrave’s achievements went unnoticed in his native country, but he hopes that if he can achieve success this winter – he has races in Davos, Switzerland, and Dusseldorf, Germany, before Christmas, then the Scottish media will start to take notice.

“I decided that I had to give it a shot after leaving school,” he continues, “We came out to Norway in the middle of October and I’ll be competing in a few World Cup races in the weeks ahead.

“I was surprised at how well I did in the senior race in Sweden but I knew I could do well in the junior races givien the times I was achieving in training.

“If all goes well in the year ahead, I’d like to have qualified for the Vancouver Olympics but I’m not really thinking too far ahead and I’m just taking every race as it comes.”

There is limited support for the GB team but it is estimated that it will cost around £12,000 to fund Musgrave’s programme over the winter.

Coach Al Dargie, whose enthusiasm and commitment, has fuelled the British team states: “Training has been going really well but it’s still early in the season.

“The facilities are great and we have a five-kilometre roller ski track where we are as well as snow cannons so that, when it’s cold enough, there’s always snow.

“We also spent two weeks at a training camp in Sweden – developed at a cost of £13 million - which had a 1.3km snow tunnel which was refrigerated to minus five degrees.”

Roy Young, SnowsportGB Nordic development coach, believes Musgrave has potential.

“He’s been on fire for the past two years. The encouraging thing is that there are others following in his tracks,” he points out.

“Andrew Young is just 16 and still at school but is number one in the world for his age-group.

“There is also another promising 16 year-old and a 14 year-old also coming through.”

Watch this space.

RM
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