Most ‘holiday’ skiers prefer groomed slopes and get the collywobbles at the sight of the ‘bumps.’
When you enter a slope with bumps or ‘moguls’, turns come thick and fast and you pick up speed swiftly with little room to control it. If your technique is poor there is usually only one way it ends – a bruising wipe out.
So Claire Dooley (18) is well used to people asking; “Moguls? Are you mad?”
“I get that question a lot,” she laughs. “I started out racing but, as a 12 year-old, moguls are a lot more fun than going down a straight hill.
“I love moguls. It combines all the best parts of skiing for me. It’s got speed, you get to do aerials and jumps so there’s also a fear factor, and it’s super technical because you’re scored on your technique. It’s got it all.”
Dooley was born and raised in Brisbane, but her ski-obsessed family used to go to Canada for their ski holidays and have a holiday home in Whistler which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics.
That’s where she is now based and having a coach who is friendly with the Canadian team coach means she can train and compete with them.
“I grew up skiing in Canada so all my peers were in Canada and I never went through the Australian pathway or was part of their programme,” she explains.
There was never any doubt what country she would represent when she started competing internationally from the age of 15.
Her paternal grandfather Dr Tom Dooley is from Kilkenny city and her late grandmother Jan was a legendary, matriarchal figure in the Irish community in Australia, especially in Queensland.
“We’ve always been a fairly patriotic family because they ran a chain of Irish pubs. My grandma used to organise the St Patrick’s Day parade in Brisbane so we would always be in the carriages going through the city. Whenever my Irish relatives come to Australia they also stay with us for long visits.”
Dooley’s demanding training schedule involves not just ski training and fitness work but daily practice on trampolines. Mogul skiers also use water slides and giant air bags to develop the two aerial elements that make up 20% per cent of their marks. The rest is marked on turns (60%) and speed (10%).
She’s currently working to perfect a straight back flip with a full twist in her 40-second runs that go by in a flash.
“It’s a super-technical sport but that’s probably why I like it so much, I’ve a Type-A personality.”
She reckons that also explains her decision to combine medicine with elite sport, currently studying pre-Med, via distance learning, at Bond University.
“We train in three week blocks because it’s so tough on your body and then have a week off in the gym so I do a lot of study then but also have to fit it in if we’re on camp.”
Her demanding academic choice also has deep family roots and not just because her Irish grandfather is a pre-eminent sports doctor who worked with the Australian men’s rugby and cricket teams.
She is the eldest of three children and her only sister Catherine (16) was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour when she was four.
She spent two years in America getting a form of ground-breaking radiation but then, at 13, had another set-back when she developed residual vascular problems that gave her stroke-like episodes.
It took five operations to solve it and doctors took muscle from her neck and sewed it on to the surface of her brain.
Her big sister describes her as “a miracle child!. She’s great again now and she also skis moguls and wants to study medicine.”
Claire currently competes at Europa Cup and Nor-Am (North America’s version of Europa Cup) level.
Finishing her secondary education (she self-schooled the final year), some illness and Covid disruptions means making her Olympic debut in Beijing in February 2022 is a long-shot for the talented Brisbane teenager but she’s mature beyond her years and in no rush.
“When I competed in Sweden last month it was really just a pre-season (warm-up) but it was my first major competition since World Juniors in 2019 and I feel like a very different athlete now. “Competing for Ireland still feels a little bit like a dream. When I finished my runs I said to my coach that I honestly don’t think my life could be more perfect right now. You grow up imagining these things and now it’s a reality.”