GB SNOWSPORT TALK INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

To honour International Women’s Day and the female athletes blazing a trail in their sports right now, we spoke to GB Snowsport athletes Nichole Bathe and Charlie Guest about their experiences as women in snowsport.

Nichole Bathe, GB Snowsport Nordic Athlete

Tell us about a time when you were proud to be a woman in snowsport/representing your country.

I had the opportunity to race at Seefeld in 2019 for World Championships. It was my first time at World Championships, and I got to race the team sprint. I was partnered with my training partner and teammate Annika Taylor. We were the only two women representing GB at the world championships that year. In a sport where it is normally individual it was great to get to participate in a team event and represent GB. 

Have there been any challenges you have faced along the way because of your gender?

I think every female in sport faces challenges because of their gender. For me, the largest challenge is being on a male-dominated team. I have been the only female on the team for three years now and that creates challenges. Our team is also staffed by just males so it can feel a bit isolating at times.

 

I also believe that currently it is much easier to be a male on this team, you are afforded many more opportunities than the females. The team was originally structed around the needs and level of male skiers. Unfortunately, the structure has not evolved over the years so integrating women into the program has not happened. The structures and qualification criteria are based around male results and not female. This makes qualifying for certain events and races much harder for women holding them up to a higher standard than men and expecting them to do it with less support.

 

The changes must be made at a higher level including staffing decisions, there are many women who are just as qualified to hold positions in the program. This would help show younger female athletes not only can you compete yourself, but you can also aspire to work within the national team.  Women need to be given the same opportunities and support as their male counterparts if we are expected to be just as successful. We are a small sport and to attract more women to the program they need to see other women being supported and successful to be motivated to pursue the sport at the highest level. 

Who are some female athletes that inspired your journey or who you admire in the sport at the moment?

My coach growing up was married to Nina Gavrylyuk, an Olympic gold medalist for Russia. I found her really inspiring because she worked hard despite obstacles she faced. I think she showed me what it looked like to have determination and how to fight hard for something. Currently I admire all the young girls I get to coach. They show me how fun my sport can be and what having a strong team of women can accomplish. 

Do you feel there are any snowsports brands who are really leading the way for women, or who create gear that really works for female athletes?

Kari Traa is a brand that is designed for girls by girls. They make clothes that are functional for women’s needs and are also stylish. The designer was a professional freestyle skier and so she understands what women want and need in their sportwear. I think it is a line of clothing that is empowering women to get out and do snowsports while still feeling feminine.

What can the snowsport industry do better to support women and encourage female participation?

I think the snowsport industry can help lift female designers and give more promotional opportunities to women in the sports. Women can do just as many cool tricks as the men, but you see that much less in the promotional ads for these sports brands. I think if we lift women up and show young girls what they are capable of then women in snowsports is going to become a much more common sight.

Charlie Guest, GB Snowsport Alpine Athlete

Tell us about a time when you were proud to be a woman in snowsport/representing your country.

Obviously every time that I have the chance to go out and race and fly the flag for GB is a proud moment. But anything I can do to show the next generation of girls in snowsports that we are just as good as boys is a something to be proud of. For example, becoming the first British woman to win an alpine Europa Cup and being one of only three Brits that holds two wins is something that I hope gives the next lot of girls coming through the belief that we all have it in us to achieve what has never been done before. 

Have there been any challenges you have faced along the way because of your gender?

I would say the biggest challenges that I have felt have been in the fact that ski racing has always been a really male dominated environment and especially when it came to training. It was very much expected that girls just do the same as the boys, as there was no female presence anywhere, or example to say that girls are not just small men, they are an entirely different physiological being altogether. As I have got older and been able to work with more experienced coaches, especially in the gym, I have been able to understand and start to influence changes in how we work on the snow too.

Who are some female athletes that inspired your journey or who you admire in the sport at the moment?

Serena Williams has been an inspiration for my entire career, as I started to understand gender equality and what it really means – that women are not only treated the same as men in the here and now, but they are offered the same opportunities, earning potentials, time, publicity, opinions and so on – she was one of the biggest voices. Every time she steps out on court, she puts sport, not just women's sport, distinctly on the map and shows every female sportsperson out there to fight for what you deserve. 

Do you feel there are any snowsports brands who are really leading the way for women, or who create gear that really works for female athletes?

Two of my favourites at the moment are Helly Hansen and Arc’teryx. Both bands have a great range of unisex kit, but also product representation between men's and women's clothing is equal (online at least).  All in all, I think that the industry has come far over the last 10 years to represent all genders, creating good looking and functional kit, designed for the outdoors and bringing out colour palettes that especially for women, veer away from just shades of gaudy purple.  

What can the snowsport industry do better to support women and encourage female participation?

If you don’t see it, often kids don’t realise that you can do it, so it's so important for women in sport to be seen as much as men.  Also as previously mentioned, I was in a very male-dominated environment from a young age and I feel like I could have benefitted from some more balanced input. It is great to see growing numbers of female performance coaches in the UK, and the efforts by UK sport to nurture that growth, because creating balance is only going to increase the diversity of participation and the talent that we can bring in to the snowsports industry.


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