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New Zealander hunts for Olympic berth

Wed, Jul  29, 2009 - By Matthew Haggart

This article comes from Skiing: Winter Olympics ultimate goal for Calder from the Otago Daily Times.

Katie Calder collapsed after her first cross-country ski race, exhausted.

"I just thought that was the coolest feeling ever - it was so challenging," she says.

The 28-year-old has been cross-country skiing since she was 15 and laughs as she recalls the experience.

Her laughter also comes bubbling down the phone line when she talks about her recent performances in Europe.

"I just don't think they could quite get there was a Kiwi on the podium. It's pretty unusual."

Calder is referring to some of her results from racing on the tough European cross-country skiing circuit during the northern hemisphere winter.

Part of the St Moritz nordic ski team since 2005, Calder has "raised a few eyebrows" among her European counterparts with her podium finishes.

She has achieved an "A" qualifying standard for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February, based on her standings and points earned on the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup circuit.

Calder claimed a second and third place at Switzerland's cross-country championships in January, following the 2008 northern winter during which she won one of Europe's largest endurance events - the 30km Gommerlauf nordic race.

Katie Calder, New Zealand. Getty Image

Meeting the "A" qualification standard for the Olympics has removed some pressure for Calder, as she returns "down under" for the winter.

"It leaves me to concentrate on getting some good results in the Australia New Zealand [ANZ] Cup racing series. I don't have to peak for each race just to try and get FIS points," she said.

However, the final decision on whether the Australian-born Calder is selected to wear the silver fern at Vancouver lies with the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

Calder, who now calls Tauranga home, was named cross-country skier of the year at the New Zealand snowsports awards, held in Wanaka earlier this month.

If she is selected for the Vancouver Winter Olympic team she will become only the second cross-country skier to do so (Madonna Harris, a Canadian-based New Zealand cyclist, was selected to nordic ski at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988).

Calder lined up for the first sprint race in the ANZ Cup series at the Australian ski resort town of Perisher on July 25.

The ANZ series also includes a New Zealand leg of three races (1km, 5km, 15km pursuit) at the Snow Farm, near Wanaka, which will take place as part of the Winter Games, next month.

Calder usually spends between six and eight weeks based at the Snow Farm during New Zealand's winter, training and competing at the Pisa Range facility and also travelling to Australia to race.

She admits the life of a cross-country skier can revolve around a gruelling travelling schedule, which often results in her living out of a suitcase for most of the year.

The grind of racing on the European circuit involves driving up to 12 hours per trip to race meetings nearly every weekend.

Although she claims not to have "too many interests" outside the sport - "we do so much training that I don't have much down time" - Calder has still found time to learn three languages.

After spending the past four years based in St Moritz, a resort town in the Swiss Alps, Calder is fluent in German and is working on her French and Italian.

She has a BCom in accounting and taxation law, gained via correspondence which "is there as a back-up to skiing".

Calder "came home" to New Zealand in 2007.

Her parents are from near Palmerston North (mother) and Rotorua (father), and nearly all of her extended family are also resident in New Zealand.

If she was not a cross-country skier, the former triathlete with a background in gymnastics claims she would love to be a road cyclist or mountain-biker - she is, she readily admits, "a sports and fitness junkie".