Cross country skier Beth Maclean is adamant the pressure of competing on the big stage will not get to her when she pulls on the Team GB colours at the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF 2015).
Maclean has been selected as part of the 15-strong Great Britain team selected for the 12th winter edition of the Festival, which runs from 25th-30th January in Vorarlberg, Austria and Liechtenstein.
She is certainly no stranger to mixing it with the best, having previously trained with some of Great Britain’s elite cross country skiers.
The 16-year-old has also enjoyed her fair share of success, having been named as the Under-18 Girls Rollerski British Champion in 2013 and she admits she can’t wait to show what she can do on the EYOF stage.
“It felt amazing to be selected for Team GB and have the opportunity to represent Great Britain in a sport I really like,” said Maclean.
“Wearing the Olympic rings is always something I dreamed of but never really thought it would happen.
“I think during my races I’ll be very much in competition mode and it will feel as normal to me as any other international race, but outside of that I’m sure that’s when I’ll really feel part of something bigger.
“The elite guys used to train with us a lot when we were younger but now they’re off round the world doing their thing but I still get to see them on various training camps. They’re all really supportive and helped me when I was first competing internationally.”
Maclean is one of a trio of British cross country skiers selected for the festival alongside Lynne Gray and Duncan Gibb.
The latter, from Insch, Aberdeenshire, has close ties with the Great Britain senior team having also trained with several of the elite athletes, including those that went to Sochi.
And the 17-year-old hopes his experience in Austria and Liechtenstein will be the first step in his own Olympic journey.
“I have always wanted to get the chance to compete at the very highest level. I’ve watched the Olympics since I can remember, it’s the pinnacle for a lot of athlete and you can’t get much better,” he said.
“I’ve been training since April last year and getting onto the EYOF team was the goal for the season.
“I’m taking it as a learning experience, I want to finish as high as I can but it’s also going to be great to be part of a team and I’m going to enjoy it as well as I’ve worked so hard to get there.”
For 16-year-old Gray finding out she had earned a spot on the team came as a complete shock and she says it still hasn’t sunk in.
But the chance to go out and represent her country is one she insists she will thrive on as she seeks to learn from every experience.
“I was so happy when I found out that I’d be part of the team. I didn’t expect it and just thought ‘oh well I’ll get on with some school work’,” said Gray.
“When I found out I’d never screamed so loud in my life. I ran and told my mum and she started crying.
“I’ve not really competed in that many big competitions before so it’s going to be a really good chance for me to learn.
“I know that it’s going to be really hard out there so I haven’t thought about targets or goals or anything like that.”
© Sportbeat 2015