ALPINE YOUNG GUNS: Estelle Alphand
By Michael Mastarciyan
Estelle Alphand was a star long before she ever put on a pair of skis – and I can say this with great certainty as an onomatology geek (i.e. student of name origins).
The name Estelle, you see, is derived from the Latin word for “star” – quite fitting for the 18-year-old from Briancon, France, as she is currently one of most brilliant rising stars on the alpine ski racing circuit.
And if you haven’t guessed already, stardom is something Estelle has been very familiar with her whole life, as her dad Luc is one of the biggest World Cup speed stars France has ever produced.
With some incredible results of her own - like a gold in Super-G, and silver medals in Giant Slalom and Super Combined at the 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games at the ripe old age of 16, and her first Europa Cup podium in Super Combined just last December - Miss Alphand is currently very busy trying to make a name for herself in the alpine ski racing universe.
I spoke to the apple of Luc Alphand’s eye recently about her life on the slopes and the hopes and dreams she’s trying to make a reality every time she straps on a pair of skis...
MM: Okay Estelle, the first question on everyone’s mind...are you a daddy’s girl?
EA: No, I am not a daddy’s girl.
MM: How old were you the first time you realized your father was a pretty big player in the ski racing world?
EA: Around 15, when I started to compete in FIS races.
MM: Do you remember watching him race very much?
EA: No, I was two-years-old when he retired so I don’t have any memory of my dad racing.
MM: When did you know you wanted to be a ski racer?
EA: I’ve always wanted to be a ski racer, ever since I started competitive racing.
MM: Did your dad encourage you to follow his steps into the family business?
EA: Not really, but we lived in the heart of a ski area so it was kind of natural.
MM: Is your dad involved with your career? Does he ever give you advice?
EA: No not directly, but every now and then he gives me some advice.
MM: Are you motivated by his accomplishments?
EA: Yes of course. He’s a great example of success for me.
MM: In one story I read, you told the reporter you had always dreamed of being a ski champion. Is this true?
EA: Yes, it’s my biggest dream.
MM: Do you ever feel any pressure to succeed given your family name?
EA: Sometimes during big races, especially when there’s lots of news media coverage.
MM: You had a huge amount of success at the first Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck in January 2012. What’s the most important thing you learned from the experience?
EA: To stay focused and concentrated. To just ski the way I know how to ski, without unraveling because it’s a big event.
MM: You were chosen to be flag bearer for France, what did that feel like?
EA: It was fantastic. I didn’t think I’d be chosen and it was a huge honor for me. I like to think I did my national colors proud with my performance.
MM: You won 3 individual medals and one more in the team event. Did you expect to be so successful?
EA: To be honest, yes. I went to the Youth Olympics to win it all! (She says with a wink of the eye!)
MM: Your first Youth Olympics medal was gold in Super-G, 17 years to the day after your father’s first World Cup victory at Kitzbuehel. Did you know this at that time?
EA: No I didn’t know it at the time. I found out later over the phone when my mother told me about it.
MM: You are talented in speed and tech. Do you consider yourself and all-rounder, and can you see yourself racing in all the disciplines someday on the World Cup tour?
EA: Yes, that could definitely be an objective for the future.
MM: Are you excited to make the step up to World Cup eventually?
EA: Yes, I’ve only raced in one WC event and I loved the atmosphere.
MM: Your first Europa Cup podium was a third place in Super Combined last December. What was that experience like?
EA: It really did a lot for me in terms of boosting my self-confidence.
MM: What do you like most about your job as a ski racer?
EA: Travelling and seeing new places.
MM: What’s do you like least about your job?
EA: The cold…sometimes it’s tough to manage.
MM: Your brothers Nils and Sam are also involved in racing. What’s the best piece of advice you have for them given you are older and wiser when it comes to ski racing?
EA: Work hard and never quit or give up.
MM: Do you think they’ll listen to their big sister?
EA: I’m not sure, it’s up to them to take it or leave it.
MM: Most ski racers by their nature are adrenaline junkies...and I think you know this being around your dad who had great success in auto racing after he retired from skiing. So the question to you is...are you an adrenaline junkie? What else to you enjoy doing to get an adrenaline fix?
EA: Yes, I really like extreme sports because they provoke very unique sensations. I also love motocross and I also like to hunt.
MM: Do you ever enjoy quiet time? Any hobbies like reading?
EA: Yes I do. I like to settle down for a good movie or a TV series, but I’m not a big reader.
MM: See any good movies or TV shows lately?
EA: I recently watched the film The Help and I loved it!
MM: If you could have lunch with any skier (living or deceased) who would it be, what would you eat, and what would you talk about?
EA: Anja Paerson. We’d have pizza and talk about her career successes and how she achieved them.
MM: If you could be successful in another sport, what sport would that be?
EA: Track and field’s 100 metres.
MM: You injured your knee racing last April...how did that happen?
EA: I caught an edge and my knee gave way…I didn’t even fall down.
MM: How has rehab been coming along?
EA: Rehab went well for the most part. I didn’t have much pain and I’ve regained mobility quickly. I did lose some muscle mass though related to my left knee, but with patience and hard work in the gym it’s coming back.
MM: When do you expect to be back on snow?
EA: Early November.
MM: What are your expectations this coming season given you’re coming off knee surgery?
EA: First of all I need to reconstruct my skiing, to bring it back to a high level. Then I’ll need to lower my FIS points and hopefully be racing World Cup by the end of the season.
MM: Have you had any time off this summer for a holiday?
EA: Yes, I spent a week in Sweden at my grandparents’ place. I also spent some quiet time at my house in Saint Maxime in the south of France.