National champ eyes the slopes

Lily Tomkinson, who finished first at the Australian Women's National Championships for skiing. (Damjan Janevski) 248389_03

By Oliver Lees

Ski prodigy Lily Tomkinson is focused on getting back out on the slopes to reclaim the winning form she’d built before the pandemic halted competition.

The New Gisborne resident climbed the competition ladder in 2019, taking out first place in the women’s National Championship in the slalom at Perisher.

But now having experienced an 18 month hiatus from racing, the 24-year-old said her sights are set on Colorado later this year, where she will look to get back into training for the upcoming season.

“I‘ve had to stop competing due to COVID-19, airfares to get anywhere else have been incredibly expensive, so I decided to take a back seat for a while,” she said.

“It’s been super nice to have time away from it and be closer to family.

“Colorado has a reputation for having the best and most consistent snow, with the season starting around October. It becomes a bit of a crazy town, because it’s one of the only places with snow at that time of year, so people are coming from all over the world to train.”

Given that her parents owned a ski lodge while she was a child, some of Tomkinson’s earliest memories involve the snow. She first strapped on the skis at two years of age.

Tomkinson showed promise at an early age, competing twice at the reputable international Whistler Cup in Canada, with her best finish landing her in fifth spot.

“That was pretty exciting, because the cup was held just after the Vancouver Winter Olympics had finished,” Tomkinson said.

But the road to a national championship hasn’t always been straightforward.

At the age of 15, she suffered a torn ligament in her knee and was sidelined from competition at the age most are preparing to transition into the adult International Ski Federation (FIS).

Tomkinson had a total of three reconstructive surgeries on her knee as a teenager.

She said those setbacks made her return to competition all the more sweet, and her love for the sport never waned.

“There’s just something pretty special about it, the connection to the snow,” she said.

“It becomes such a big part of your life, it feels good to be able to do something that not many others can and go really, really fast.”

She’ll be leaving a busy life behind when she jets off for the United States.

In lieu of skiing commitments, Tomkinson has worked as a keeper and presenter at Wild Action Zoo and will soon complete a certificate in veterinary nursing.

Despite being the reigning women’s national champion, Tomkinson currently does not qualify for the Australian ski team.

This is due to the FIS point ranking system, which takes into account time spent away from competition as well as results.

Although she’s not sure she’ll be able to make up the ground before the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, Tomkinson said donning the green and gold remains the dream.

“It’s certainly my goal, as I think it is for any athlete,” she said.

“Skiing has taken me all over North America, Europe and Asia as well, and if it’s in the Olympics or not, I’m definitely always representing Australia when I’m overseas.”