Huntly schoolgirl skiers Elspeth Cruickshank and Sophie Forth (16) describe thrilling experience at Winter Youth Olympics in Gangwon, South Korea as they do Team GB proud
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Two Huntly schoolgirls have described the thrilling experience of representing Team GB at cross country skiing in the Winter Youth Olympics in South Korea.
Gordon Schools pupils Elspeth Cruickshank and Sophie Forth, both 16 and members of their local Huntly Nordic Ski Club, competed in both the Women's 7.5km Classic and the Women's Free Sprint events at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre in Gangwon.
Elspeth was inspired by her older brother Cameron, who competed at the 2019 Junior World Ski Championships and helped her prepare for the biggest competition of her life.
Classmate and close pal Sophie has trained and raced all across Europe as a member of the British Nordic Development Squad, and said she hopes her Olympic experience can help to establish herself even more on the international scene.
"It felt surreal being selected to compete in these Games," said Elspeth. "I hoped to put down a good race - meaning I tried my hardest - and just take in the whole experience.
"I hope someday I will be back at the senior Olympics with Team GB."
The Huntly girls both just missed out on qualifying in the women's sprint event on Monday, with Elspeth finishing 44th and Sophie 45th out of 79 skiers bidding for a top 30 placing.
The following day they took part in the gruelling women's 7.5km classic, with Elspeth 43th and Sophie 50th in a field of 78 elite young skiers.
"To be selected for the Youth Olympic Games in South Korea was such an amazing feeling," said Sophie.
"It felt like all the hard work and time I have put into my skiing so far has paid off and I'm really excited for the whole Olympic experience.
"With the Games being such a huge international event, I'm hoping to use this as a learning experience to help further develop my skiing and to get race experience on a more international level."
Both girls started their sport with Huntly Nordic Ski Club at a young age.
Elspeth was just five when she attended kids' sessions once a month, following in the footsteps of her brother and sister.
"As I got older I started to realise I really enjoyed it, so began to train more competitively.
"Huntly Nordic Ski Club has been key in my development as an athlete, with so many amazing coaches and friends to train with."
She stepped up to the British Nordic Development Squad at the age of 12. "I worked my way up through the various groups, attending training and race camps in various different countries such as France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and of course Scotland.
"During the Covid lockdowns, I started to really focus on my skiing and would go out training with my older brother, Cameron.
"He also plays a big role in my training, always telling me what he thinks I should do whether I like it or not!
"Now the hard work's starting to pay off as in the last rollerski season I retained my British title and broke three course records during the Scottish Rollerski series in Huntly, Fife and the Cairngorms."
Sophie began doing weekend sessions at her club and also noticed her skills develop rapidly, as she also made the BNDS at the age of 12.
She paid tribute to the Huntly club's part in helping her meet her sporting goals.
"The club has really helped me as there is a really great support group of coaches who dedicate a lot of their time to help our development as athletes, and a great group of athletes we train with that encourage each other."
Her time with the British development squad has taken Sophie to the likes of Norway, Sweden, France, Germany and Slovenia to train and race.
"Some of my biggest achievements have been beating course records in the Scottish roller ski series."
Both girls also qualified for the World Junior Ski Championships in Planica, Slovenia this year, but because the event is too close to the Youth Winter Olympics, they won't be able to attend.