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Fast—and female!
Friday, March 20, 2015


                Sophie Caldwell eyed a group of pint-sized girls on skinny skate skis and pointed towards fellow U.S. Ski team member Liz Stephen.

                “Did you know Liz is one of the fastest women in the world?” she asked, as Stephen started skiing up a hill above Galena Lodge. “See if you can keep up with her!”

                The Galena Lodge area turned shades of pink and red Thursday afternoon with a hundred girls clad in the “Fast and Female” T-shirts handed out by the six females on the U.S. Nordic Ski Team.

                The girls, who ranged in age from 8 through 18, danced on the snow and participated in ski games designed to improve their skills, in addition to getting them jazzed up about participating in a sport that gets them outdoors and enjoying the camaraderie of other gung-ho females.

                They also learned about goal setting from women like Kikkan Randall, a 33-year-old World Champion Sprint Champion who decided at age 5 she wanted to compete in the Winter Olympics and has gone on to compete in four.

                “We’re creating an awesome web of inspiration!” said Randall, who posted America’s best-ever American women’s Nordic finish—eighth—at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

                Fast and Female was started in 2005 by Canadian Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford to empower girls to aspire to sports and a healthy lifestyle. Fast and Female events have been held on both coasts and in Canada, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

                Statistically, girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys, said Randall. Randall and her teammates are in Sun Valley to compete at the Super Tour Finals, which is bringing more than 200 of the top racers in America to compete for the national championships at Galena Saturday through Thursday.

“We want to spread the message: Do sports to be healthy. Come together and empower others,” said Randall. “We pair younger girls with fabulous role models—coaches and athletes and show them how much fun it is and give an inspirational chat. They get a personal connection with those they may have only seen on posters until now. And it gives meaning to what we do as athletes.”

                Crawford, Randall, Jessie Diggins and other U.S. Ski Team members held a Fast and Female event in Sun Valley in 2011, and the girls who were there are still talking about it, said Sun Valley Nordic Ski Coach Kelley Sinnott.

                “All the kids are so excited about this,” she added. “These are their heroes. They get to meet them, ski with them. It’s something that will empower them as they race their race, as they live life. Their message of empowering and inspiring young women through sport is so important and valuable.”

                On Thursday young Nordic skiers from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation dolled up their faces with gold glitter, formed teams such as the “Green Giggly Gangster Gorilla Pigs” and came up with “Go Fast and Female” cheers for each team.

                Ski team members and ambassadors like the SVSEF’s Mary Rose, dressed in colorful head bands, tights, capes and tutus,  introduced them by way of their “power animals” that Randall said exemplify “the qualities we identify with.”

“My power animal is the toucan. I figure if I can, toucan,” said Ida Sargent, who competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

                Then the girls headed out onto the snow where they took part in fun games such as lunging at the finish line, to sharpen their skills.

 Randall and Sargent showed one group, which included 10-year-old Svea Leidecker,  of Hailey, how to fall onto their entire body, using their core, to jump off at starting line.

One girl immediately fell on her face.

“That happened to Norway’s Petter Northug, one of the top skiers in the world, just the other day at the World Cup,” Randall assured her.

Randall challenged the girls to “put your poles in the snow as fast as you can” as they double poled at the start.

“Don’t think about how long you’re going. Quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick, quick!” she said, hopping towards the end.

                Ella Wolter, now 13, was eight when she attended the Fast and Female held five years ago.

“It was inspiring because I got to see the medal that one of the girls won at the Olympics,” she said. “And it’s fun getting to meet all these top racers.”

“It’s cool to meet all these girls,” echoed Abigail Kirk, a 13-year-old Wood River Middle School student.

                Randall told the girls that she hoped that they would make sports a part of their life: “All these positive things happen when you’re involved in sports….It gives you well-being, confidence and allows you to chase your dreams.”

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