17-year-old Mikaela Tommy set to make World Cup debut in Slovenia

A talented young ski racer will follow in her parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps when she makes her World Cup debut in Maribor, Slovenia, on Saturday.

Mikaela Tommy, 17, comes from skiing royalty – her father Michael (Mike) is a former Canadian champion and two-time Olympian while her mother Gabi was on the national development team. Mikaela’s grandfather Andy Tommy – Michael’s father – was named to Canada’s team for the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games but didn’t compete due to injury, while two of Andy’s brothers also skied for the national team.

Mikaela, of Wakefield, Que., leads the 2012-13 Nor-Am Cup standings in giant slalom and is set to be given the chance to compete against the likes of Slovenia’s Tina Maze, USA superstar Lindsey Vonn and Canada’s own Marie-Michèle Gagnon in Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom.

“I’m not nervous – I’m really excited,” said Tommy, a member of the Quebec Ski Team. “I’m going to be very focused on my race but I’ll try to enjoy everything around it. Hopefully I will enjoy my skiing as well!

“My parents are excited for me. They both know what it’s like to make their (debut). I’m sure they are going to be watching.”

Mikaela is the latest young female technical skier to make the leap to the World Cup circuit, where she will join a new generation of skiers who are flying the flag for Canada. The 17-year-old, a national team ‘prospect group identified athlete’ who comes from the Edelweiss Ski Club, specializes in giant slalom but also competes in super-G and slalom. Mikaela says she looks up to several current World Cup racers but there’s one in particular who she’d love to emulate.

“I really like watching (USA superstar) Ted Ligety in giant slalom,” she said. “I really like the way he throws it down. He’s all-out.”

Tommy has had a strong season, racking up three Nor-Am Cup podiums and six top-10 finishes. She competed in her first Europa Cup races earlier this month – on the new, longer skis required for European and World Cup competition – and she is set to get an opportunity to show what she can do on a bigger stage.

“She deserves this chance,” said Hugues Ansermoz, head coach of the Canadian ladies’ team. “There’s a good group of young Canadian racers and she’s probably the one who has made the biggest steps (forward) this year. She is the leader of the Nor-Am giant slalom standings.

“There has been great collaboration between Alpine Canada and the Quebec Ski Team regarding Mikaela’s training and racing program. That has helped prepare her for this opportunity to compete against the best racers in the world.”

Of the nine current members of the ladies’ national team, four are from Quebec.

“On behalf of Ski Québec Alpin and our sponsors, we would like to wish the best of luck to Mikaela on her first World Cup experience,” said Daniel Lavallée, director general of the Quebec Ski Team. “Mikaela has had a great season thus far and it is very thrilling for us to have a Quebec Ski team member participate in this weekend’s World Cup event in Maribor. Both her parents were national team members and her dad is Quebec Ski Team Alumnus. I can’t imagine how excited they must be!”

Mikaela said it’s nice being from a family that understands the pressures of being a young ski racer.

“My parents can always give me help if I ever need it,” said Mikaela. “We are pretty much like any other family but they are very supportive and don’t push me too hard.”

Mike Tommy said the whole family will be watching with interest when his daughter makes her first World Cup start on Saturday.

“We are very proud of Mikaela,” he said. “She has had a great start to the season in the Nor-Ams. It’s hard to believe she was racing K2 just three years ago and now she’s in her first World Cup!”

Mikaela doesn’t have any specific goals for Saturday or her career as a whole, but she has an exciting few months ahead of her with the world junior championships – for which she is eligible – taking place in Quebec next month.

“I love skiing and I definitely want to continue on the World Cup,” she said. “I don’t like setting massive goals but I know what I’m capable of and what I can do.”

PHOTOS: Media can download photos of Mikaela Tommy, courtesy of the Quebec Ski Team, from https://alpinecanada.box.com/s/f1p3y1w4fx6i1cr9fn2v.

WATCH IT ON TV: The ladies’ giant slalom from Maribor, Slovenia, will be shown on Sportsnet One at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Sunday’s ladies’ slalom is due to be screened on Sportsnet at 5 p.m. ET in the East and Ontario, 3 p.m. in the West and 2 p.m. in the Pacific region. Saturday’s men’s downhill from Kitzbühel, Austria, is live on CBCSports.ca from 5:25 a.m. and will then be shown on the main network at 4 p.m. ET. Sunday’s men’s slalom will be screened live on CBCSports.ca at 4:10 a.m. (first run) and 7:25 a.m. (second run).