Fresh from winning three medals at the Winter X-Games, Estonia’s 16-year-old freestyle ski sensation Kelly Sildaru is looking to take the World Championships by storm this week.
She became the first person to leave the X-Games in the US state of Colorado in January, having won three medals in one weekend in events where the slightest slip generally means you miss the podium.
Apart from missing her mum, the wunderkid said she is confident and focused at the Freestyle World Championships in the US state of Utah, which runs until February 10, saying the organisation suits her temperament.
“At the X-Games, the schedule was really tight. It won’t be that tight here,” she said.
“I’m skiing seven days in a row or something. At the X-Games, I did four or five days.
“It takes more time here, but it’s not so tight. It will be easier for my body.”
Competing on skis, rather than in the equivalent events for snowboard, Sildaru is down for the slopestyle, where a string of obstacles such as handrails and bumps are negotiated and awarded marks by judges, and the half-pipe, notable for its aerial acrobatics.
Kelly’s father Tonis is both her coach and manager and accompanies his daughter everywhere. He pulled her out of Saturday’s big air, complaining that the ramp was too slow and the landing area dangerous.
That decision follows on from concern about her safety after Sildaru missed her Winter Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea, last year, because of a knee injury.
“I was really sad about that, but I tried to keep a positive vibe. I knew that if I worked hard I’d get back on skis faster,” she said.
Kelly tried out skis for the first time when she was two years old and it was not long before evidence of skills began to emerge.
“We didn’t have a huge goal at the beginning,” said Tonis.
“Maybe when she was eight or nine, we saw that she has some potential. It was quite early.”
If her life has sped up since then, the gifted teen says her family keeps her grounded.
“Everything is pretty much still the same,” she says appearing to take things in her stride.
“I’ve been travelling more, doing more different competitions. It’s always hard to be away from home for a really long time.
“For sure, I miss my mum and my friends. But I’m pretty used to it.”
At the Aspen X-Games, Kelly thumped Olympic champion Sarah Hofflin to storm to gold in slopestyle. In the half-pipe Canada’s Olympic champion Cassie Sharpe went all in with a risk-laden routine that edged the Estonian into second. Her third medal, a bronze, came in the big air.