A Young Brit Started his journey to the Olympics at Age 3

Rob Hourmont

An unexpected wild ride on skis that started for me at the tender age of 3 - 50 years ago!

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Jumping off a Lip for a Photo Shoot in 1985Rob Hourmont

My parents ran the UK’s largest School Travel Operator and brought thousands of school kids from the age of 10 to 18 to Austria for many years to learn to ski.

I was one of them, but I started at 3.

Thanks to my parents’ business I got to travel to Innsbruck, Austria. I could go pretty much as often as I wanted, especially as I was in my pre-school years.

Thanks to my parents’ business I got to travel to Innsbruck, Austria frequently. I could pretty much go as often as I wanted, especially as I was in my pre-school years.

They had weekly buses and chartered planes hauling the kids to the Austrian Alps. Lucky me, I always flew instead of having to endure a 24-hour bus ride.

I ended up spending weeks on end in the mountains, skiing with my first coach and skiing mentor, Reinhard Pedross.

Reinhard was a ski instructor and was the person who taught me to ski back in 1972/73. Not just that, Reinhard immediately recognized my special talent for the sport.

Reinhard’s efforts redefined the course of life, which gave me amazing opportunities, for which I’ll always be grateful.

As it turned out, I became a child prodigy skier. Reinhard didn’t stop; every winter he pushed me harder to ski more and to take up ski racing training.

I didn’t really understand what the point of it was, seeing that I was living in the UK, but I did.

Reinhard didn’t stop, every winter he pushed me to ski harder and more, and to take up ski racing training.

For several years my family and I continued to commute back and forth from the UK and Austria. However, when school started for me in the UK things got logistically difficult.

Both my father and mother were always the adventurous type, so they didn’t hang around, and without further ado, in 1977 they moved our whole family to live in Austria.

That was my two older brothers, Paul and Andrew, and me, of course.

It was a crazy thing to do, as none of us spoke German at the time, and few folks spoke English well back in those days.

There I was, suddenly sitting in a German speaking school class, understanding absolutely nothing. I wondered what my parents were thinking and how on earth I’d manage.

Believe it or not, after 2 months I was apparently speaking perfect German including the local dialect. People didn’t know I was from the UK when they talked to me and couldn’t understand how I learned the language so quickly.

But truth be told, I believe it’s just as easy for any young child to learn a new language if they are exposed to and immersed in it, as I was.

My two wonderful kids, Rhys and Brooke, learned French similarly to me learning German, when we moved to France in 2004.

Back to skiing.

In the winter of 1977, I entered into the local Ski Club Race — their first foreigner to ever compete in this event— racing for the first time and against some 60 local kids in my age group, who grew up on the ski slopes – as Austrians do.

I won the race - as a Brit.

Mothers, fathers, coaches, officials and my fellow competitors couldn’t believe what had happened and were stunned.

And that is how my illustrious wild skiing career, and journey to the Calgary 1988 Olympics began.

To be continued.

Rob

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