It’s been an incredibly busy few months for Perthshire skier Charlie Guest. At a time of year where most of us were enjoying one too many drinks on our festive nights out, the dedicated three-time British champion was competing in Finland, Sweden and Norway before rounding off 2017 on the slopes in Austria and France.
It’s nothing new for Charlie as this time of year marks the start of what is the most hectic period of her yearly schedule, with World Cup points up for grabs at every turn and of course the possibility of appearing at the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.
What was different this year for the slalom and giant slalom skier though was that she got to spend Christmas at home with her family, something that is not often possible for 24-year-old.
“It’s great to actually be home this year,” she told me as we sat down for a coffee at Willows, “usually I’m on the road for Christmas and don’t get to spend a lot of time with my family.”
Just four days earlier, she had been competing in Courchevel, France but was able to head home afterwards to enjoy some quality time with her supportive parents and other family members. However, unlike the rest of us Charlie wasn’t overindulging on Christmas dinner and drinks as she was off on the road again in the early hours of Boxing Day.
Her dedication to the sport she loves is inspiring and since going full-time as a professional skier in 2012, she’s enjoyed many ups and downs but her passion and desire to succeed remain as strong as ever. Since starting in the Cairngorms as a 7-year-old dreamer, she has travelled the world competing for her country and has enjoyed fantastic success.
Back in 2014, just as she was beginning to feel like she was in the best shape of her life, a training accident in Sweden led to Charlie suffering four broken vertebrae. Potentially a career threatening injury, she astounded everybody by returning to the slopes and competing just six weeks later. She admits though that she does still feel the effects from the accident.
“My back does still give me some trouble sometimes,” she said, “but I realise that’s likely to be the case for the rest of my career. It’s all about managing it and knowing how far I can push myself before I need to rest. My back does still give me some trouble sometimes - it's all about managing it and knowing how far I can push myself.
“We don’t have the funding to bring a physiotherapist out on the road with us, so it’s not that easy to get treatment when I’m not back home. The Institute of Sport are great and give me access to a physio when I’m back in Scotland but when I’m competing it can be tough. Luckily, the other countries that do have their own physios will often help me out if I’m struggling which is great and I really appreciate it.”
Since coming back from her injury scare in 2014, Charlie has been rebuilding her career steadily and has posted some impressive times over the past few seasons. When the busy World Cup season kicked off in November, Charlie had already registered a qualifying time for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and is waiting to hear whether she has secured her place on the Alpine Skiing team next month.
“We’ve been working towards getting to Pyeongchang and I’ve set a time which qualifies me for the Olympics. It just depends how many places are available but I’m very hopeful I’ll get the green light to go.
“It’s been a year of changes but the end goal has always been to get to the Olympics. I changed coaches and parted company with my coach of six years Stefan Moser, which was a shame but allowed me to start working with the national team led by Noel Baxter.
“I’m usually down in the southern hemisphere over the summer but we decided to do our work in Austria in 2017 and that was great. The facilities were brilliant and it allowed me to get some good training done with the team.”
If she does board the plane to South Korea next month, she’ll join an already strong Perth contingent as both the men’s and women’s curling teams will have representatives from the Fair City. Having grown up in the local village of St. Martins, she is very familiar with the Smith brothers who hail from neighbouring Guildtown.
“It’s great to see Kyle and Cammy doing so well and getting to represent Great Britain at the Winter Olympics. If I am selected that would mean three winter Olympians from a tiny area of Perthshire so that would be pretty incredible!
“I can remember them from growing up and it was only a few years ago at an event that I recognised Kyle and realised who he was! Since then I’ve followed their progress closely and they’ve got a great chance of doing very well in Pyeongchang. Fingers crossed I can join them over there!” I’ve followed their progress closely and they’ve got a great chance of doing very well in Pyeongchang.
Charlie’s performances over the past few years have not gone unrecognised and her reputation continues to grow and grow. This has attracted some additional sponsorship which has helped her to fund a lot of her travel over the past year.
Canterbury-based company, Quinn Estates, now sponsor Charlie with the company director a keen skier and follower of the British team. The additional funds allow her to focus more on the performance side of things rather than have to worry about finances while on the road competing and training.
“I’m delighted to be sponsored by Quinn Estates – they’ve been absolutely brilliant with me and they help me so much! It’s tough being a British skier because we’re not funded like other sports, so a lot of the time it can be a struggle to get by and my parents have had to help me out a lot over the years.
“Having a sponsor on board like Quinn allows me to keep my full attention on the slopes and getting better times, rather than have that worry in the back of your head about how you’re going to afford this and that. It’s been a massive boost to me and hopefully I can repay the faith in me by performing better and better and getting the fastest times possible.”
Regardless of whether Charlie is selected for the Alpine Skiing team next month or not, she has big plans moving forward and hopes to one day emulate the success of her male countryman, Dave Ryding, who last year achieved his first podium finish in a World Cup event at the age of 30. She believes that British skiers have every chance of reaching the pinnacle of the sport, but that it probably just takes a little longer for it to happen.
“I think because of things like funding and the weather and facilities here, by the time we get to elite level we are a bit behind the other countries. That doesn’t mean we can’t get there though, I think it just takes us a little longer to realise our potential.
“You look at Dave Ryding and he’s probably been performing the best runs of his career over the past year or so and he’s now in his thirties. It’s all about working hard and continuing to try and improve and keeping that hunger to try and get as far as possible in the sport.
“I look back at the 7-year-old girl who started out and compare it where I am now, and I’ve come such a long way but there’s always room for improvement and I feel like my best years are still well ahead of me.”
Keep your eyes peeled to the Small City Sports section and Facebook page for any announcements on whether Charlie has been selected for the Great Britain Alpine Skiing team.
You can keep up to date with Charlie's progress via her own social media channels below.
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