THE Winter Olympics may be over but Lindley athlete Fiona Hughes is already looking ahead to her next challenge.
Fiona, who celebrates her 20th birthday today, is preparing for the final Nordic ski races of the season.
And she’s on a brief trip back to Huddersfield, to meet up with family and friends and do her washing before heading out to Slovenia.
Dad Geoff has shared snaps taken during Fiona’s first winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The 20-year-old was bowled over by the daily life and the atmosphere of being at the Winter Olympics the first time she has competed outside of Europe.
“It was so exciting – just the best experience to have,” she said.
“In cross country skiing, it’s the biggest event in the world. It’s the one competition everyone wants to be in so to be there was amazing.
“Of course I was a bit nervous too, but it was an excitable nervousness.
“It’s strange being back at home now – I’ve lived in a bubble for three weeks.”
Nordic skier Fiona finished 68th in the women’s 10km cross country skiing competition with a personal best of 30:29.8. But it’s all a bit of a blur for Fiona now: “I was so focused on what I was doing, I didn’t take very much in.
“It’s what I’ve been preparing for but it’s a bit surreal now.
“Spectators couldn’t stand on some parts of the track, but when we came to where they were the noise was so loud with everyone cheering. It was just fantastic.”
Fiona shared a room with gold medalist Amy Williams and said watching the other athletes was an inspiring experience.
“I went to watch Amy when she won the skeleton and I was in awe.
“All winter sports are a bit nuts and crazy, but I don’t think I could ever do the skeleton. It’s really scary – I don’t know how Amy and the others get down the track.”
Daily life at the Winter Olympics started at 7am with breakfast in the athlete’s village. Fiona would then spend the morning training before lunch then relax, do light exercise and socialise in the afternoon and evening with the other athletes.
“Everyone was so friendly. We were all there for the same reason – to put on our best performance – so we could understand each other’s emotions.
“It’s strange looking back because it was only three weeks but it feel like I’ve known some of the athletes a lifetime.”
Fiona’s interest in cross country skiing began aged eight during a family holiday to Norway.
Fiona recalled her first time on the slopes: “My mum told me to watch out for the tree and I thought ‘that’s miles away’ – the first time I missed it but the second time I went straight into it.”
Fiona was 12 when she competed in her first fun race and a year later she was approached by the British Nordic Development Team.
From then on competing at the Olympics was always her aim.
She fitted training around her school work at Crossley Heath School and Greenhead College.
It meant she would have to be unsociable during the winter season, but her ambition and love of training spurred her on.
She is now on her way to Slovenia where she will compete in the Continental Cup race between March 12-14 before moving on to Finland for the final race of the season over Easter weekend. They are also Fiona’s last races as a Junior competitor.
Fiona will take a few weeks break before starting training again in May. And she’s due to start an engineering degree at Cambridge in the autumn. She will, once again, fit training around her studies.
But her dreams lie in 2014 at the Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia.
“I want to go to Sochi and compete higher up the field.”