Molly had raced for her local ski club in Les Gets since she was 10yrs old. At 14yrs old a couple of girls are selected for the Haute Savoie departmental squad. These girls then go to Lycée in Le Fayet to study their Bac, here they are on an adapted course that allows them time to train. These “sportifs de haut niveau” study their Bac over 4 years to allow them time for lessons. They spend all winter training and racing and during the main build periods, every third week on a training camp. Molly wasn’t selected, thanks not so much to her results but a negative “letter of recommendation” from her local coach. A revered but old-school coach (now retired). It wasn’t the end of the world as Molly still had the level required to go to Lycée in Chamonix where she could study to become a XC-Ski instructor alongside her Bac. This course is not easy to get chosen for. There is a fitness test the kids have to undertake. A run up to Montenvers from Chamonix and back. Molly was the first girl home in that test. So there was obviously potential!
At the end of the summer of 2019, after Molly’s first year at Lycée we were with Julian Norton and his family (11/August). Julian knew Molly could cross-country ski and asked why she wasn’t trying to race for Great Britain. Molly showed an interest. We claimed to have discussed this with her in the past. She disagreed! Later that day Molly raised the question again, we said that if she was interested she would have to make the contact with the British Nordic Development Squad (BNDS) herself. We know them, as they have been keeping an eye on Molly's brother Jacques for a while. Within a day Molly had written and sent the email (12/August), they responded straight away to say they were just putting together their plan for the Lausanne Youth Olympic Games Jan 9-22 (YOG). They explained that they had not asked for a place for a girl to compete because they didn’t think they had any that could qualify. They were interested in Molly straight away but she had to qualify in an international event and then they would have to try and claim the place. It would all be last minute as the event they had targeted for qualifications was Dec 8th. They would know if they had the place on the 12th. The team had to be announced on the 14th.
The BNDS set up a training programme for Molly to follow remotely. This was overseen by a GB coach based in Germany. Carl Carrier.
Molly went back to school at the beginning of September. She could not get her head around fitting in training with her very intense schoolwork. Her Bac is already over-full thanks to the fact she is following a programme to become a Nordic Ski instructor at the same time. We had a rather emotional chat Sept 9th. Molly decided to carry on and try and train and work. It was touch and go.
Molly’s Granny and Great Uncle both said they would chip in to help cover some of her expenses. Ian was a rower when he was younger and has some understanding of the commitment required!
Oct 19-27, Molly went on a training camp for a week in Oberhof (E.Germany) with the BNDS, this coincided with her half-term holiday. I drove her there and back. 3000km in one week. A record for me. Neither I or the car has been the same since. This camp was held outside on roller-skis and inside in a climate-controlled snow tunnel.
Dec 2-9, Molly went to Idre in Sweden to try and qualify for YOG. Her one and only shot! We knew from her previous national results that this could be a close-run thing. Just getting there was going to be an adventure. Molly has never flown un-accompanied. She’s never had to make a connecting flight either. We booked her with KLM via Amsterdam to Oslo. We prepped her with all she would need to know to cross Schipol. The night before KLM contacted us to say that there would be an issue with the connection. So they booked her on a Swiss Air flight via Zurich! That was a stressful start! Thankfully she ended up sat next to some Swiss XC skiers who looked after her in Zurich. Funnily enough, Molly bumped into these guys again at YOG!
Molly travelled on to Idre on Monday, trained in the December gloom with BNDS and raced on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday, 10km Classic
Molly has never raced this distance, she has been used to 5km in the past. However classic is her prefered style. Her aim was to get under 240 FIS (International Ski Federation) points. Something she has never managed before, but she's been close in the past. These are like handicap points, they are worked out from "known" athletes that regularly finish well. So they are comparable across races around the world. They are only ratified if there are enough known athletes at the race. It was quite daunting for her as it was a senior race, she was the second youngest out of 80. She finished with 220 points. So was very pleased.
Molly has never been much of a sprinter. These are 1km sprints, with knock out rounds and finals. She went out in the first round. Molly ended up with stomach cramps, in tears and on the phone to us stating she didn't want to race on Sunday. We are used to this.
Sunday, 10km Skate, -6C, 30mph wind, windchill of -12 and snowing. We fully expected Molly to pull out of this, 35min racing in these conditions is quite a trial. About 20% did not start and 4 failed to finish. However, Molly did finish, and bettered her points, down to 210. She called us and was over the moon. Our youngest daughter Tilly reminded us that Molly excels in bad conditions (and didn't we know anything). The live stream still exists of this race. Molly does not feature but skip to 38m30sec and you'll get an idea of how tough you have to be. https://livestream.com/EsJoLo/Idre10FDamer/videos/199665094
This was excellent news, although it does not mean she definitely had a place. We now had to wait to see what the BOC thought, however, she had a good chance and we would find out that she had a place just a few days later. This kicked off quite a round of form filling and Skype interviews with various BOC people. Mostly on the subject of “clean sport” as far as I could tell.
Over the Christmas holiday, Molly really applied herself. In all weathers including heavy rain and heavy snow, 12 days out of the available 14. She ended up quite jaded.
January 4/5 - Molly took part in a local race this weekend. A knock-out sprint. Which she is poor at, but classic style which she likes. This would be a good test for YOG as the first two days are sprint races.
She has rarely got past the first round of this sort of thing, so has no head for the required tactics. You race against 5 each time, the first 2 go through. So if you are in first or second, and there is a gap to 3rd...save your energy for the next round!
It's a 1km lap. So equivalent to an 800m event on the track. So each effort is pretty grim. It's a local race, so generally just girls from our local department (county). The girls from the departmental team were there. That's the team that Molly didn't get into. First, there is qualifying, so an individual event, against the clock to seed the rounds. Molly was the fastest. She beat them all. As Jacques pointed out, the departmental team will make their selection for the big races from that qualifying time, all things being equal Molly would be picked for the next big event on that result. However, not now she is racing for GB that won't be happening!
Then there are the rounds. She won the first and second. But went too fast each time, didn't conserve energy for the final. So in the final, she came 5th. Still this was a great result for Molly and a good confidence boost. The following picture is of the final 5. Molly is looking happy!