FIONA HUGHES faces the biggest test of her fledgling career over the next four years according to coach Roy Young – but he is expecting the Lindley cross-country skier to pass it with flying colours.
Hughes has enjoyed a month of firsts in February – making her first World Cup appearance in Canmore and competing for the first time at the Winter Olympics just ten days later.
The 19-year-old battled valiantly to recover from a late fall in the ladies’ 10km freestyle to finish 68th at the Whistler Olympic Park and has since been soaking up the experience from the stands.
Hughes is well aware that she might not reach her peak until the 2014 or even 2018 Olympics and Young admitted he has formulated a gruelling but achievable schedule to ensure she gets there.
“Fiona did herself really proud on that first day and she is performing better than the performance path I have placed her on,” said Young.
“When I was working with Fiona four years ago I realised that some sort of pathway was needed and we did a lot of work to put one in place.
“But now Fiona is on it and succeeding I think the next four years are going to be more difficult because we want her to be in the international field. We aren’t looking at 68th anymore we will be looking at the top 30s and I would love for Fiona to go above and beyond her current performance levels.
“That is the big challenge now she has competed at an Olympics. We have got work on her and open the doors to allow her to be successful.”
Young took a fresh-faced Hughes – who is a member of the Yorkshire Dales Cross Country Ski Club – under his wing six years ago.
And he admitted his immediate challenge is to get Hughes following the lead of her male British teammates, Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young, and competing in all Winter Olympic cross-country skiing events.
“Theoretically 2018 is the target for Fiona and the guys but they also have an opportunity to get in amongst in four years time,” he added.
“And while Andrew and Andrew have competed across most of the events in Vancouver the aim next time is to definitely have a woman do all the competitions rather than just the one – and Fiona is in the right place to achieve that.”
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