Snow sports athletes in Australia work hard for their sponsorship money, or lack of it. They earn a sliver of what an equivalent athlete of similar calibre in North America does yet they attend the same training camps, compete at the same events and consistently share the podium (mostly in freestyle skiing and snowboarding).
The average household in Australia knows Torah Bright thanks to an Olympic gold medal and lucrative overseas sponsorship money beforehand. Anna Segal, however, is not so known.
The Melbourne born slopestyle skier learnt to ski in Mt Buller in Victoria where she trained with Team Buller and then trained in Perisher as a member of the NSWIS/SSA National mogul development team. But it was Thredbo Alpine Village that today announced a sponsorship ambassador deal with Anna that will have no doubt come as a curve ball to Australasia’s commercial ski resorts.
Anna is a quiet achiever coached by fellow Aussie now residing in Wanaka, Victoria Beattie. Anna is the current FIS World Champion slopestyle skier, was the first female to win gold at the Aspen X Games when slopestyle was introduced as a female discipline, she has gone on to score bronze at another Aspen X Games and silver in Tignes X Games.
She won the Association of Freeskiing Professionals Cup in Whistler and finished this last season second in the world on the AFP leader board. Oh, and she was named a Snowsports Athlete of the Year in 2011 by Ski and Snowboard Australia.
Put simply she is the Australian to watch going into Sochi 2014.
But just who should sponsor Anna? Victorian skiers were up in Twitter arms when we exclusively broke the news about a New South Wales resort working with ‘their’ athlete this morning. Ok, one person made mention of it, but hey they have arms!
Sure, the natural Victorian fit would have been Mt Buller or even Falls Creek for their terrain park that gives them some much needed street cred. But Falls Creek is the only commercial ski resort not welcoming the women’s freeride Chicks With Sticks program this year and they weren’t part of the program last year either. So that rules them out.
Anna, and her sister Nat, are a big part of Chicks With Sticks, an initiative created to give young girls a supportive freeride environment in which to thrive and an opportunity to be taught for the day by Australia, and the world’s, best including Anna, Nat, Zoe Jaboor, Katya Crema and more. Check their website for dates for Perisher, Thredbo, Mt Buller, Hotham and Baw Baw.
This is a forward thinking coup for Thredbo and their terrain parks, managed (and built and designed) by the world famous Charles Beckinsale. Anna will be calling Thredbo her home resort while competing in Australia and overseas, she will be a social media ambassador and consistently training at Thredbo when in Australia. That’s kudos for those sharing the slopes.
Athletes can’t live by product sponsorship alone and yet so many Australian athletes work the podium and the miniscule amount of media space given to snow sports in Australia for just that, product. The snow brands know it, why pay cash when you can get them to just wear your gear?
But athletes have to live, it costs money to train, to travel and to fulfill your dreams and not every skier and boarder has a rich mummy and daddy to support that and if they do not all parents want to support that.
In my experience most athletes don’t understand how to court sponsors or media, perhaps that should be taught in the athlete ladder program by Ski and Snow Australia? I’d be happy to run that course. It will certainly help athletes make some money from their career dreams.
New Zealand already knows the value of being aligned with and supporting the career of someone like Anna. She was courted by Snowpark a while back but ended up with Snow Australia for a year as an ambassador.
But if a resort wants to officially call an athlete their own, like a sports brand, they have to pay for it or at least give the up and comers a season pass which very few resorts do. Unless a resort has an outstanding existing relationship with the athlete then money, career help and training support talks.
Thredbo clearly spoke the loudest.
This year things are different. Perisher has another great slopestyle athlete, Russ Henshaw, and Thredbo now has Anna. A sponsor spanner (not to be confused with Anna’s Spanna nickname) has just been thrown into the ski resorts of Australia fire.
Now, just who will touch it?
What do you think? Who should be sponsoring Anna? Should athletes be given more sponsorship dollar support in Australia and how do you decide who?