Alpine Young Guns: Ragnhild Mowinckel
By Michael Mastarciyan
When up and coming Norwegian skier Ragnhild Mowinckel is not training or competing in the alpine racing world, she’s most likely enmeshed in another fantastic world – one inhabited by supernatural creatures such as vampires, witches, werewolves and fairies.
If you haven’t seen Mowinckel in person – take it from me - there is an uncanny resemblance to Walt Disney’s version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan fairy character Tinker Bell – put a picture of Tink with a ski helmet on in your head and you’re there! Even Mowinckel’s name has a fairy-like sound to it – say it, repeat it - Ragnhild Mowinckel, Ragnhild Mowinckel, Ragnhild Mowinckel – almost sounds like a magical spell or incantation no? When grilled on the subject of fairies and magic, Mowinckel admits she does have the ability to fly – but only on skis, adding that her success on the slopes is the result of hard work and good coaching - NOT magic or fairy dust!
“No, unfortunately no magic or fairy dust is involved. It’s only hard work, patience and incredibly good support. Not just from having good trainers, but the support from my family and friends means everything to me,” says Mowinckel.
A big fan of the Harry Potter and Twilight book and movie franchises, Mowinckel is also a huge fan of Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka The Sookie Stackhouse Novels) and True Blood, the HBO television series that brings Harris’ books to life.
“I really like vampires and all the other supernatural stuff! I really like to escape from my skiing life to a fantasy world that is nothing like what I live! I’m a big fan of Charlaine Harris, I’ve read all of her books, and watched all of HBO’s True Blood. I don’t really know what fascinates me about vampires and supernatural creatures; I just know that I love it. It may be that it is soooo far from our world and out reality, that the idea of it is just really intriguing. I probably sound like a fairy tale geek, but I have other interests as well!” Mowinckel says with a smile.
Mowinckel, at 19, may be a mere mortal, but her career, at least so far, has been like a fairy tale. With three medals at the 2012 FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Roccaraso, Italy – a gold in GS, a gold in combined and a bronze in super-G and podium finishes in every event at Norway’s National Championships (2 golds, 1 silver and 2 bronzes), Mowinckel’s has shown incredible flashes of alpine magic while on the race piste.
We caught up with Ms. Mowinckel, who friends call Rag-Mow, recently for a little chat about the goings on in her magical on-slope and off-slope worlds….
MM: Ragnhild, do you have a nickname or does everyone call you Ragnhild?
RM: Until recently, like a few years back, I didn’t have a nickname, but lately I've gotten quite a few nicknames. When I was just competing around in Scandinavia, everybody got my name right. The name Ragnhild is probably as Norwegian as it can get, so when I started to compete in a more international arena, many people struggled to say my name right. I can totally understand that, it’s a hard name to pronounce, but then came the nicknames such as: Mo, Rag-Mow or Raggz to name a few.
MM: You had an amazing end of season this year with two golds (GS and combined) and a bronze (super-G) at World Juniors in Italy as well as a 4th place in slalom – did you think you’d have success on such a massive scale going into Worlds? How exciting was it?
RM: It was so surreal, everything that happened in the end there. I didn’t understand what happened actually. The thing is I had no expectations before I went into it, neither would I think anybody had of me. Ok, I did a few good races before the Junior Worlds started, but to do that good, blew my mind. It felt like I was floating on pink clouds all the time, everything I did was more or less on autopilot, I tried to think and analyze as little as possible and just ski. But that feeling of winning and skiing that good is priceless. I really hope that it is not going to be the last one.
MM: How do you keep yourself grounded after so much success?
RM: I know that at the end of the day, I am the same girl that I was when waking up. So no matter what happens, that’s the girl I want to go to sleep as again. And I know that this is just a small step on a tough road to even more success. I know that the higher the climb, the longer the fall. Of course I was super stoked and flying high on my pink cloud after doing so well, but all I got from it was more motivation and the will to do even better. I don’t get cocky after doing so well, I think I look more like an over shaken soda bottle, trembling with so much energy. I just walk around smiling all the time.
MM: After Worlds you cleaned up at Norwegian Nationals with medals in every event – was that exciting?
RM: Yes, of course! Winning or doing well is always fun. I've never done as good in a national as I did last season, but I think most of it just stuck with me since the Junior Worlds. I think I kind of loosened up before the Junior Worlds, it felt like I was surfing. From there on and till the end, I was surfing that same amazing wave.
MM: Norwegian superstars on the World Cup have often been multi-discipline ski racers – you’re pretty talented in all events – is there a secret to this?
RM: I don’t know if there is any secret, I just like every discipline, and as long as I do, I will continue to race in it. I learn a lot from the speed disciplines, which I can take with me into the giant slalom and vice versa. Downhill and Super-G is so fun when I'm not scared of the speed, you’ve got to be so mentally strong and tough to do well in that I think. So I got a few things to work on to be even better there, but also by doing a lot of speed training I get more comfortable to handle high speeds in for example GS.
MM: Do you have a favourite discipline? If yes, why is it your favourite?
RM: Yes, I've got to say GS; simply because that’s where I've developed the most. Everybody likes doing stuff they are good at, and in GS I feel very in control and I have confidence in my skiing. I really love downhill as well when I feel comfortable with the speed.
MM: Do you think your success this year is a confidence builder?
RM: Definitely! All success is a confidence builder, and I take as much as I can get. I need to believe in myself to ski well, without it, I feel like my grandmother can ski better than me. I don’t think I'm alone in thinking that way either, but as I mentioned earlier I know that all this success makes the fall pretty steep. So anything can happen the next season, I can do really badly for all I know. I know that the pressure on me to preform is a hell of a lot higher this coming season that it was last season, but I just have to find a way to handle it. With more success, the pressure isn’t exactly going to decrease either. But I try not to think about it. I'm just going to ski my best and see where that takes me.
MM: Where will you be doing most of your racing this coming season – World Cup ? European Cup? A mix of both?
RM: Mostly I'll be doing European Cup, but if I ski well there, then most likely I get more valuable experiences in the World Cup. I got to ski a few World Cup races last season, and I also got to ski the final in Schladming. One of the most important things I learned there is that there are incredibly good ski racers out there, but more importantly they are not superhuman. They can also be beaten, so just give me some time and I’ll do everything I can to do just that (she says with a big smile).
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and who gave it to you?
RM: My dad always said that, “Champions still have to wake up and go to the toilet every morning.” So, the best ones also have to do the daily routine, they are not superhuman. I think that helped more when I was little and was watching Anja Pärson and the rest of the elite skier, thinking that there was no way I'm going to be that good. Anyhow, it is still good advice and I still use it.
MM: Okay enought about ski racing, you’re a big fan of Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries book series and the HBO television series True Blood – how did you get hooked onto these stories?
RM: I got hooked on the series after I watched the first season of True Blood when that came out. From there on, it just escalated. I read book after book when I wasn’t skiing and sat like a kid before Christmas Eve waiting for the next book or the next season of True Blood to come out.
MM: Who is a best match for Sookie Stackhouse – Bill Compton (Vampire), Eric Northman (Vampire) or Alcide Herveaux (Werewolf)?
RM: Eric Northman! But if I would follow the HBO series I would say Alcide Herveaux, because he is played by Joe Manganiello, who is preeeetty good looking (she says with a huge smile and a wink). MM: Of all the fantasy characters in the Potter world, The Twilight world and the True Blood world – who would be the most interesting dinner companion for you and why?
MM: Back to the magical world of skiing, how is training coming along for next season?
RM: Training is coming a long great. We just finished a 5 week training session with the team now, and I'm feeling stronger than ever. I also have tested better this season than ever before, so now I'm starting to want to get back on snow. But not yet, I'm still glad we a few more weeks before we start skiing again. Last season was really long!
MM: Have you had any time off this summer? Do anything relaxing or exciting that’s vacation related?
RM: Yes, I've already been to Greece for a week, just relaxing and tanning. Then I had visitors from Switzerland for half a week, and now I'm going the French Riviera for two weeks. So this year I'm really lucky to get two summer vacations in warmer places. That’s more or less my time off this summer, next stop after France is Switzerland when we start the pre-season training.
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