TWELVE years ago, a small Aberdeenshire boy slogged over the Cairn o Mount on a 100km cycle ride, with one bystander, labelling “cruelty to children”!
However the child in question, Callum Smith, disagreed and now, a change of sport and a whole lot more slogging later, he has his sights set on the winter Olympics in four months’ time.
Callum Smith (21) of Inverurie, switched on to cross country ski-ing aged 8 years old. He and his family went along to an open day at Huntly Nordic Ski Club and he was hooked. The sport is dominated by Norwegians and Russians but the Huntly club, the largest of its kind in the UK, has produced an impressive stable of international competitors including Andrew Musgrave, of Oyne, GB’s best cross country skier, and Andrew Young of Huntly. Both are almost certain to be competing at Sochi, Russia’s Olympic venue.
Already a member of the British Cross Country Ski Team, now Callum is hopeful that, if he competes well enough in the coming months, he may be selected for Team GB, joining 2800 other athletes for the event which run over two weeks from February 2014.
In 2009 Callum was Britain’s highest ever finisher in cross country skiing at the European Youth Olympics. The following season he was, among other achievements, first in the Swiss Campra cup (under 18s), second in the Swiss national championships (under 18), and the British Rollerski senior men’s champion. He trained at Norwegian ski gymnasium Hovden Ski Gymnas, competed at the 2011 Oslo world championships and came second in the small nations qualification race, going on to compete in the Sprint, 15km time trial, team sprint and the relay.
As well as all this, he completed his school studies at Inverurie Academy and is two years into a degree course in Chemical Engineering at Edinburgh University.
But he is currently taking a year out to focus on training which he hopes will give him the edge in this, the final push for selection. Four years ago, he qualified but missed out on a spot. This time - stronger, more experienced and a full-time athlete, he is confident there should be a place for him on the team.
His diary reveals training and altitude camps in France and Italy until the racing season starts in November at various European venues. While this might sound glamorous in reality it appears training, racing and waxing skis is the same, wherever the location.
Commenting on the regime that he hopes will take him to the Olympics, Callum said, “Some days, when there are good ski conditions, it’s really good, but when it’s sleeting and blowing in your face, it’s about looking forward to getting back under cover. I enjoy being part of it, the training, the team, the preparation for big races.
“I think I have made a big enough improvement, so should be making qualification. Selection is out of my hands.”