I’m Finn and I’m a skier. Now, you’re probably expecting me to tell you that the most defining moments of my life would be something like getting two Youth Olympic Medals, or gaining double U.S National Titles. Although these have both very gratifying things, they haven’t been extremely defining in my eyes. I believe the biggest defining factor that’s affected my life hasn’t been the achievements themselves but more the build up and preparation that has led to my success. This unseen part of sport has majorly affected how I live my day-to-day life, taught me my most influential life lessons and given me a different perspective on the world that I don’t think I would’ve gained otherwise. It’s this preparation and ongoing motive that has brought me to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s brought me around the world, introduced me to some of my closest friends and has taught me a lot about myself as a person, in all aspects of life.
From the age of six, I decided I wanted to become a professional skier. To travel the globe, skiing and competing with the best in the world and getting paid to do so. However along with that, came the initial decision to go out on a limb and put all my energy and heart into achieving this goal that seemed very far away, when I began this journey. At the start of this pathway in achieving my goal, I definitely wasn’t very aware of what it was going to take. I was just fixed on this image or end goal, unaware of what I the road would entail to reach my aspirations. Looking back at it now, I feel that the end goal is no longer the defining factor but more the unexpected journey that it’s taken to get there. Each step along the journey has taught me so much more than what I expected when I set out and I believe it’s these steps that will be the most defining factors of my life. Don’t get me wrong, getting a medal or a large competition winning is great but I’ve learnt that’s a small sector of your life. When you achieve a goal, you gain a sense of accomplishment but that quickly fades out and you set your sites are set on a new goal. However, the lessons I’ve learnt in the steps that have led to my success, are exercises that I believe I will carry forward into the rest of my life. For example, I’ve learnt how to put my mind to something, plan and prepare to achieve a goal successfully. How to perform under pressure, and throughout strength and conditioning, how beneficial it is to live an overall healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. These are all actions that I’ve unexpectedly learnt along the way in trying to achieves my goals life, which have now been ingrained in me and they’re already resonating into other aspects of my life. For example, the planning I do at the beginning of the season around my goals and hopes for my skiing translates into the forward thinking I do for school at the end of the year. By doing this I’m able to prioritise my time, maximising the amount of training I can get done in skiing, whilst still meeting the requirements needed to reach my education goals. All of these defining steps along the way culminate rapidly towards my goals and aspirations, far more than the short 30 to 40 seconds of my competition runs that our seen by the rest of world through Facebook or Instagram.
I’m involved in the judged extreme sport of freestyle skiing, competing in the disciplines of halfpipe and slopestyle. A standard competition run for us is based on a judging criteria which consists of a variety of different components, technical difficulty, style, execution and overall impression. You’ve got to display finesse in all areas of this judging criteria to be awarded a high score, a run tends to lasts about 45 seconds and it’s this gripping 45 seconds of action that majority of people see. But like any sport at an elite level, beneath the athletes performance, lies countless hours of relentless hard work, perseverance and determination. For example, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic Athlete of all time, didn’t miss a single day of training for five straight years. Freestyle skiing is a high risk sport and injury is a major part of what we do, with that being said, it’s a calculated risk. I find people will often ask me if the risk is worth it, my immediate reaction is always yes as it’s the activity I like doing the most in this world. The happiness and freedom that skiing gives me, is worth getting hurt or even dying for. I feel you can always justify taking the risk when, you could die doing anything so you may as well be doing activities in life that you enjoy. This statement had much more meaning to me after something that happened to a good friend of mine just over a week ago. The same day that Ashleigh gave her speech to the class about loss and grief, I was told the horrific news that my good friend had died in a car crash. I found it hard to accept that a person that has done so many risk taking things in their life would leave this earth by doing something as simple as driving a car. From this happening to someone who was close to me, it opened my eyes up to how quickly life can change and how unpredictable our lives really are. It made me cherish the people and things in life that I enjoy in an entirely new way and reconfirmed how short life really is, so I believe why spend time being scared of injury or death, get out there and do what makes you happy. This is a statement that consistently travels with me, whether I’m skiing or not and I feel it’s defined me as a person in pushing me to make the most out of everyday. Therefore, when people ask me if the risk is worth it, I’ll always say yes. From the eye-opening experiences like this, that I’ve been introduced to throughout skiing, I feel I’ve been able to gain a wider perspective on the world as a whole.
Alongside competing on the world stage, comes a large amount of travelling to different countries for events. Skiing has brought me all around the world and introduced me to some very contrasting cultures to New Zealand. Having two parents from overseas, travelling abroad has always been a major part of my life, to either visit relatives, or go skiing in our summer. As I got older and my level of skiing has progressed, the need to stay overseas for longer amounts of time became more apparent. It got to the point where my family could no longer sustain being with me 100% of the time, therefore, I started travelling to the other side of the globe, without my family. As a 14-year-old grommet, I was thrown into the deep end and quickly became far more independent. I definitely found it difficult being away from home and my family when I was younger but those times of challenge and diversity have been immensely defining for me. Travelling has put me in some tough situations but have made me more ambitious and confident in both times of distress or comfort. It’s taught me to figure tasks on my own and to think clearly when it’s most needed. I was introduced to figuring out the world on my own at the age of 14, but I’m continually learning new life skills every time I travel overseas. I think the most defining thing that travelling has shown me however, is the way different cultures and individuals relate to the world and to others in it. Travelling has made it easier to envision life outside of the Wanaka bubble and given me more compassion for issues that are larger than myself. The lessons I’ve learnt from travelling have been built into me but it hasn’t been until the last couple of years that I’ve really appreciated how much travelling has defined me as an individual. The skills I’ve learnt through travelling have all been additions along the way in the hope of trying to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a professional skier, I never would’ve thought that the transport part of our sport would be so influential and defining. I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to travel from a young age and I believe this has been an extremely defining factor of who I am today.
For the majority of people, when they see an athlete like Eliza McCartney or Richie McCaw, smiling with their medal around their neck, this becomes our defining image of them. However to me, that captivating final image represents years of planning, hard work and determination to reach that significant moment in time. It’s not the performance, but more the build up, that resonates much deeper to me. I’m grateful that skiing has introduced me to this aspect of sport as it’s taught me what it takes to achieve a goal in any area of life and how influential every small step along the way is, to achieve success. I was very unaware of how much skiing would shape me as a person when I set out on this path but the lessons I’ve learnt and the experiences that skiing has brought me are undeniably defining and I hope to carry these forward into my future. Skiing has changed my day-to-day outlook on life and given me a different perspective on the world, it’s taught me that every step along the way contributes to your outcome in life, regardless of what you want to achieve. Therefore while, the final shot of an athlete succeeding might look defining, the power of what’s happened behind that image, that’s what counts and that’s what’s really defining.