Markthaler flies Team SA flag at Youth Winter Games

South Africa’s teenage alpine skier Lara Markthaler is the country’s sole representative at the 2024 Youth Winter Olympics which will be held in the South Korean city of Gangwon... Read more
Markthaler flies Team SA flag at Youth Winter Games

South Africa’s teenage alpine skier Lara Markthaler is the country’s sole representative at the 2024 Youth Winter Olympics which will be held in the South Korean city of Gangwon from the 19th January to 1st February.

The 16-year-old German-based Team SA star arrived in Gangwon Province on Friday and she will acclimatise and prepare ahead of her actual competition which takes place from 21-25 January.

“I’ve never been to Asia, so I am looking forward to the full experience,” Markthaler said on the eve of her departure. “I really want to use these Youth Olympics to gain more experience and I’m one of the youngest competitors in my event. Obviously, I am going there with a goal and that would be to break into the top 20. Anything more than that would be a bonus at this stage of my career and I’ll be trying my hardest to get as high on the leaderboard as I can. I also want to tap into the whole Olympic spirit.”

In adding his well wishes, the President of SASCOC, Barry Hendricks, endorsed Markthaler’s view, while confirming that SASCOC will provide all the necessary support to the athlete and her support team.

“We wish Lara and her support structure the very best. This event is also a leadership learning experience. We look forward to her sharing her experiences in South Korea with her friends and federation. It’s a great life experience for all involved.”

Markthaler has crammed a lifetime into her 16 years. She grew up in the German Alps and was introduced to skiing at around 18 months. Her family relocated to Canada when she was eight and they stayed there just over for four years until returning to Germany, where she remains based. She holds a South African passport and her mother is her nutritionist and her father is her coach.

“We’re a very close-knit family,” Markthaler said. “I’m home-schooled and in the equivalent of Grade 11. I study and do my exams online. In Europe everyone skis and I belong to a ski team of five. We are outdoors every day and I love the lifestyle.” Her mother, Judy, chips in: “It really is hard work, but all the sacrifices are worth it. As her nutritionist, I make sure that she eats all the right stuff for her career, and as a family we all eat the same. “It’s an organic, natural foods diet and gluten free.”

Markthaler has always had an adventurous streak, but had to eventually choose between mountain biking and alpine skiing. She admitted that injuries are part and parcel of such sports but has been “lucky”. “My only big injury was a collarbone three or four years ago. Oh yes, I was on crutches for a while as well, but that wasn’t for long and I’ve already forgotten about it!”

As with most teenagers she’s active on social media and has some 110,000 Instagram followers. “I’ve also recently started on TikTok but social media is too time consuming and I don’t have enough hours in the day to spend on it.”

SASCOC CEO Ms Nozipho Jafta also gave Team SA’s representative her full support: “Our heartiest congratulations go to Lara for qualifying for the Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games. She will move into the Olympic village on 16 January ahead of the opening ceremony.

“African nations are not regular participants at a Winter Youth Olympic Games mainly due to geographical reasons with very little snow of competition quality experienced on the continent, so we are proud that South Africa will have representation at these Games. Lara is an inspiration and we are all behind her.”

These are the fourth Youth Winter Olympics and it’s the first time in history that the gender parity rule will be used. This means that there are the same number of events (34) for both men and women. There will be seven different sports and 15 different disciplines. This is the second time Team South Africa is participating at the Winter Youth Olympics.

 Issued by SASCOC

Article written by