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BHS skier on a whirlwind trip to Youth Olympics
It may be a surprise to some that Isabella Todd, a sophomore at Bainbridge High who considers herself a “good recreation skier,” will compete next month in the slalom event at the first Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
She has become one of many examples of Americans competing for other countries in Olympic Games because they have ties – often parental ones – that qualify them to represent that country.
Often the athlete has not reached the high competitive level required to qualify for a U.S. team, but can meet the requirements of a smaller, less competitive nation.
For Isabella, 15, her mother, Veronica Todd, is a native of Peru, which is why the small South American country will have its first downhill skier competing in an Olympic junior event in Jan. 13-23 in Austria.
Less that a month ago, “Isa,” as family and friends know her, knew nothing about the Austrian event. Now she’s an Olympian bound for it.
She has no illusions of winning a medal when skiing on the Patscherkofel slalom course on Jan. 20, but it’s been a remarkable journey just to get there. The biggest hurdle was simply to qualify, which she did during the Mission Ridge NW Cup in Wenatchee on Dec. 19.
“I felt confident I could do it,” she said this week, “but it’s taken a lot of hard work. And I’ve had a lot of people helping me.”
Isabella, accompanied by her father, Preston Todd, who grew up skiing in Montana and Idaho, is currently training at Stevens with the Stevens Pass Alpine Club.
“I know I won’t be competing (for a medal) but I’m trying to get better because it’s a great opportunity,” she said. “Working on my technique, I’m beginning to increase my speed so I can ski on the edges more.”
Her adventure began when she was discovered by Roberto Carcelén, a Peruvian who took up cross-country skiing when he married a Seattle woman and moved here. After two years of training, he qualified and competed in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in the 15K freestyle race.
In an effort to get more Peruvians involved in winter sports, the country’s consulate in Seattle asked Carcelén to scour Northwest states for junior-aged skiers with ties to Peru.
“It took about six months to find someone that age, who is Peruvian and is good enough on skis to qualify,” Carcelén said.
He didn’t have a data base for the search, so he relied primarily on Facebook. When that didn’t work, the Consulate of Peru in Seattle reached out and three people eventually applied.
“We had almost lost hope,” Carcelén said. “We contacted the Todd family about three weeks ago and they were very excited about it. We did all the papers, got her racing license and were off to Colorado inside of a week.”
Carcelén said Isabella didn’t know what to expect at first, but when they discussed his experience in preparing for the Winter Olympics she decided to give it a try.
“She’s phenomenal,” said Carcelén, who will serve as Peru’s delegate at the Austrian games. “She has a great attitude for the sport and has been excited about it from the beginning. She realized it would take a lot of hard work, and has accepted that.”
Her mother worried about her being out of school for a couple of months, “but she’s a good student and she will make it up,” Veronica Todd said.
Isabella quickly jumped into an intense training regimen when she journeyed to Copper Mountain, a ski area west of Denver where the U.S. alpine team trains.
“That was an eye-opener for her,” said Preston Todd. “We got her a private instructor, Tiger Aserlind, a former U.S. coach, who worked with her for two full days. Basically, he was teaching her how to race rather than just skiing by working on technique and race theory.”
She finished her heats, which technically qualified her at Peru’s classification level for the Austrian event. But she needed to get more FIS (International Ski Federation) points, which led back to Mission Ridge.
“She has really improved over the last three weeks,” Todd said. “She’s not going to be super competitive, but she’s training on tough slalom and giant slalom courses so she’ll be ready.”
And who knows what the future will hold for her?
Isa’s Olympic fund
Isabella Todd’s training and travel is expensive since her sponsor country will pay only about half of the cost. For those interested in helping out, the Isabella Todd Olympic Fund as been established at Kitsap Bank, 10140High School Road.