Nicknamed ‘The Real Deal Peel’, Laura Peel is one of the few aerial skiers who came to her sport in 2009 as both an accomplished skier and gymnast, quickly making her mark on the international scene with multiple World Cup medals, seventh at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a World Championship title in 2015.
A severe ankle injury in early 2015, requiring two surgeries and lengthy rehabilitation, kept the Canberra native on the sidelines the following season as she watched her team mates soar in North America, Europe and Asia.
Peel made it back to the top ranks last season in immediate style with a return to the top twelve but the World Cup medals, whilst tantalising close, eluded her until the final competition in Moscow early this year when she secured a bronze.
Now in the best shape of her career after spending the off season in Park City, Utah with the Flying Kangaroos squad, Peel had a short break at home before leaving for Ruka, Finland on November 11.
“It’s nice to relax and not feel any pressure, have a car, see friends, check into reality and get out of the bubble for a bit,” Peel said.
“It’s always good to get out and get a bit of perspective. That’s necessary.”
The break at home was short after spending the northern hemisphere summer on the specially constructed Aerial Skiing water ramps in Park City, Utah.
“The pool is hard on the body and I’m excited about getting onto snow. Our focus is on training and we try to enjoy that.”
Speaking with Peel, there’s one trait that is noticeable. Every thought or explanation is rounded off with a positive note.
“This summer I didn’t introduce any new tricks. It’s about getting those tricks to the best standard I can. I’m healthy and confident. That’s important.”
“I’m feeling good,” Peel said. “I finally got back on the podium last season. Even though I saved it for the last event, I’m back in the game and where I needed to be.”
“Ruka (in Finland) is one of my favourite places. It’s just beautiful, honestly. Beautiful sun sets and very different.”
Returning to Finland is akin to a fairy tale.
“It’s bushland straight to Frozen! We go from very long days (in Australia) to very, very short (in Ruka).
The day light hours in Finland at this time of year are so short that most of training is done under lights. Plus the Aussies have company.
“There’s a lot of teams training in Ruka. Pretty much all the field except for China,” Peel explained.
“We do hang out. It’s nice that everyone is pretty friendly.”
Looking ahead to PyeongChang, Peel reflected on what she has learned from Sochi.
“The Olympics can be overwhelming. Usually there’s not many spectators or media and then Olympics changes everything”
“It’s important to realise you’re doing the exact same thing. I’ve done it before and it will be less overwhelming and I want to give my best performance.”
Conditions will play a part in Korea on 14 and 15 February when Aerial Skiing takes centre stage for Australian viewers.
“There’s quite a bit of wind on the site, which is not ideal, but we spend a lot of time coping with the different speeds and coping with the wind. I will be doing all the jumps I’ve done before.”
“Three jumps in a row. Confidence and consistency is going to be important.”