The Youth Olympic Games are designed so that young athletes can have a taste of what the senior Games are like – preparing them for the biggest stage.
And if two of Team GB’s brightest alpine skiing stars are to be believed, then the recent Youth Winter Olympics in Lillehammer have certainly served their purpose.
Iain Innes and Yasmin Cooper were two of the 16-strong Team GB squad that headed to Norway in mid-February with sports such as bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge and skeleton also having British representation.
Iain, from Edinburgh, and Chichester’s Yasmin took to the Scandinavian slopes for the slalom, giant slalom, super-G and alpine combined – both registering multiple top-20 finishes.
The duo have since been competing at the Delancey British National Alpine Ski Championships in Tignes where they dominated the U18 category.
And 17-year-old Iain is convinced the whole Youth Olympic experience is already paying dividends, standing him in good stead for the future.
“It was honestly amazing, the best ten days of my life and I met some amazing people,” said Iain.
“On your race day and you’re up on the slopes nothing changes from any other event – it’s just a bit harder, at a higher level and a bit more intense. But then off the piste, everything is completely different.
“When you enter the Olympic village you’ve got to go through security like an airport and there are things that take so long to get used to.
“For example I was sharing a room with a guy who was doing freestyle and a guy who was doing bobsleigh which are two completely different sports to what I do.
“It was pretty cool seeing athletes from other sports and their different approaches to competition day.”
Iain finished 17th in the giant slalom and 20th in the slalom in Lillehammer despite competing against the best in the world in his age group.
For her part, Yasmin came 13th in the alpine combined, 19th in the super-G and 20th in the slalom to also complete a successful Games.
The 17-year-old maintained that form as she won six gold medals, two silvers and bronze at the British Championships across the U18, U21 and senior categories.
Her highlight in Lillehammer was undoubtedly meeting her hero Lindsey Vonn but says she won’t be forgetting the whole experience in a hurry as she continues her ascent in the skiing world.
“The Youth Olympics were incredible – I loved every second of it. It was out of this world and bit surreal in a way,” said Yasmin.
“It was incredible to meet people from different disciplines and see how things happen in other sports because I’d never seen sports like ice hockey or monobob and I didn’t even know monobob was a thing! That was incredible and it was such good fun.
“To see all these other skiers who are your age but better than you means you can strive to be like them. It was just an experience that has pushed me and spurred me forward.
“I met Lindsey Vonn who is my idol – we got to interview her and she answered some questions.
“I asked her what motivates her and other questions which I have always wanted to ask her, so that was brilliant.”
Photo credit: Vanessa Fry