Before she turned 10, Alex Loutitt became “obsessed” with ski jumping after watching the sport at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Before she turned 20, the Calgary native was an Olympic medallist.
“I always grew up saying I want to win Canada’s first Olympic medal for ski jumping, and the kids on the playground would be like, ‘Yeah right, OK, you’re crazy,'” Loutitt said in a recent interview with CBC Sports.
“But I mean, I graduated high school an Olympic medallist, so I wasn’t that crazy.”
Loutitt, now 19, was part of the Canadian squad that won bronze at the 2022 Beijing Olympics in the mixed team event.
As it turns out, that is the exact kind of adversity in which Loutitt thrives.
“I say my brain is like a block of Swiss cheese. I’ve got a lot of holes in my head and there’s random thoughts in these holes, but with a little bit of pressure it’s just one thought,” she said.
In January, Loutitt became the first Canadian woman to ever win a World Cup event, taking top spot at a competition in Japan weeks after returning from a fractured foot. Her next competition begins Thursday with the world junior championships in Whistler, B.C.
WATCH | Loutitt soars to World Cup victory:
She initially suffered the injury in July, but it was misdiagnosed by doctors as an ankle sprain that merely required a week or two of rest. Loutitt fought through immense pain to continue training.
Finally, in the middle of a September training, she received the news of a fracture.
“I was on the hill and my coach was like, ‘You need to go in … I just got a call from the doctor, you shouldn’t even be walking on your foot right now,'” Loutitt said.
When Loutitt returned to World Cup action in December, Ski Jump Canada was hoping for a top-15 finish. Instead, she placed fourth, missing the podium by 0.4 points.
“The last session I had before I started competing again was awful, like so bad. But I’m the kind of person that jumps better in competition, so I was hungry and I wanted to do well and it was just such a tiny thing that needed to be changing that made a world of difference,” she said.
WATCH | What you should know about Alex Loutitt:
It’s that confident mindset that’s vaulted Loutitt into Canadian ski jumping lore around the same time she might be picking a university major.
CBC Sports ski jumping analyst Rob Keith said confidence is key to Loutitt’s long-term success.
“It’s a mental game and you might find success early in your career and then struggle to keep it or to find it again later on. But I think that she has all the great building blocks of someone who can do that,” he said.
He added that her consistent takeoffs have propelled her into the upper echelon of the sport.
Loutitt was born into ski jumping with confidence. Normally, young skiers begin with lower start gates and gradually move up the hill. Instead, a coach sent Loutitt to the top gate right away.
Now, she’s walking around with a Superman sock equipped with a sewn-in tracking device in her purse.
Hidden within the sock? That Olympic bronze medal.
Loutitt said it was the heavily decorated moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury, whom she met in Beijing, who gave her the idea about where to keep her medal.
“I was with [teammate] Abigail [Strate] and we were both just so star struck, jaw dropped, like oh my goodness,” Loutitt said. “And then after we won the medal, all the freestyle skiers were leaving and then he wrote a little message for us and it was one of those moments that like wow, he knows who I am. I’m mindblown.”
WATCH | How to watch ski jumping like an expert:
‘We love the sport’
Loutitt, Strate and the rest of the Canadian ski jumping team currently train out of Slovenia, in part because there is only one operational ski jumping hill in Canada, located in Whistler.
Loutitt credits the team’s passion in overcoming those unfavourable conditions.
“The only reason we still do it is because we love the sport and we love the community we’re still part of,” she said. “If you look at other Olympic nations, a lot of them don’t have the same passion that we do and they just have the funding and we’re still out here and we’re beating them.”
But Keith said the lack of facilities at home remains worrisome.
“It’s a bit of an interesting story that way where we are seeing a lot of success at a high level, but at the same time we need to really focus on having a place to be able to train in Canada that allows young ski jumpers to flourish here.”
Ideally, continued success would lead to more eyeballs and increased funding, a combination which could result in a perfect confluence of interest and resources.
All Loutitt needs, at least for now, is that confidence.
“I feel like there was never a point when I didn’t think [an Olympic medal] could happen. I’ve always been crazy, so I always believed it could happen.”
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