World Champs mom Sarah Schleper

16 February 2011 09:02

American Sarah Schleper, competing in her fifth world championships, has other things to think about besides her professional racing career.

Besides her jam-packed existence as a World Cup skier, Schleper, who turns 32 this month, has a whole other life that she juggles … that of her 3-year-old son, Lasse.

Lasse and his father, Schleper’s husband Federico, accompany Schleper everywhere she travels to compete. Schleper, who grew up in her father’s ski shop in Vail (Buzz’s) with an older and younger brother, attempted her first World Cup in 1995, and has been scoring points on the circuit since 1998. Taking just a year off the sport during her pregnancy in 2007-08, the Vail native was back on the circuit the season after Lasse was born in January 2008. By November 2008, Schleper, who has only won one World Cup race – the slalom in Lenzerheide in 2005 – was back in the top 15. She’s also posted a handful of top 10s the last two seasons, her most recent in the Zagreb slalom a few weeks ago.

Lasse himself learned to ski the same time he learned to walk and in the last few weeks, has actually tried running gates.

“He’s up to 18 gates now,” Schleper says. “We’re breeding a champion here.”

Lasse, with a Mexican father, is bilingual and Schleper often speaks to him in Spanish to practice her own language skills.

Argentina’s Macarena Simari Birkner, 26, also has a child Lasse’s age: Guadelupe.

“Guadelupe … Lasse’s girlfriend,” Schleper says. “They’re always having little races and hanging out together when we’re at the same place on the tour.”

With the pre-dawn, freezing cold inspection mornings, training all year and 100-percent focus required of the alpine World Cup, Schleper says having a toddler in tow isn’t as demanding as one would think. In fact, she says it kind of takes the edge off.

“For me it’s actually easier. Because I have a little friend with me everywhere I go. When I have a bad day, he’s there to cheer me up.”

The difficulties come when the unexpected happens … as it does, especially with kids.

“The hardest things for me are when he like, pees on himself and I’m like, ‘What do I do? I didn’t bring extra pants,’” Schleper says. “Those accidents are rare. But I’m in between runs, struggling with a peepeed boy and trying to get ready for my run. Those are the things I stress about a little more than other people would.”

Luckily, Schleper gets a lot of unsolicited help with her nurturing duties.

“My teammates help me out so much. I feel like they think it’s their priority to help him, too. In that way I’m so fortunate – Resi, Hailey, Megan … they’re his aunts, they’ve taught him a lot while we’re on the road.”

Though it is not customary to have small children around on the World Cup, Lasse has become quite popular on the women’s tour.

“He’s friends with almost all the girls on the World Cup. He knows them by name,” Schleper says. “He has his favorites – Tina Maze, Maria Riesch, Lindsey Vonn. He loves seeing Lindsey Vonn’s car in the parking lot. He’s always like, ‘That’s Lindsey’s car!’ I was always thinking that Anja Paerson grew up with her dad coaching Ingemar Stenmark and maybe that’s how she got her inherent ability to win all the time. So maybe it will get instilled in Lasse. You know, I don’t really care if he becomes a ski racer, but he definitely has a head start on a lot of kids his age.”

Speaking of instincts, even Schelper’s coach, U.S. alpine women’s head coach Alex Hoedlmoser has observed how his senior skier’s maternal instincts have helped the team as a whole. He describes Schleper as “the mom of the team.”

“It is really great to see how she is – not just with Lasse, but with all of the younger girls,” Hoedlmoser says. “She is there for everyone and always a great support.”

Surprisingly, though, Schleper says her maternal instincts are secondary to the ones that drive her skis.

“I’ve always devoted my whole life to skiing since I was very young,” Schleper says. “So I think for me it’s a natural ability, an inherent trait I have. Skiing is my No. 1 focus, that’s why when I go slow, I’m so upset. To have Lasse in there, it makes me less serious about it … which is how it should be. It’s nice to have an outlet.”

 

Go here for video with Schleper.

by Shauna Farnell/farnell@fisski.com