When she first learned that she made Australia’s Olympic team, among 50 other athletes, Casey Wright was overwhelmed.
“This has been a goal that I’ve been wanting to achieve since I was a little kid… so to finally achieve it is just mind-blowing,” Wright said.
Becoming an Olympian was a big ambition of her going into this year’s races.
“My whole goal with this season was to ski fast and I knew if I was skiing fast, then … I would qualify,” Wright said.
Wright is from the southeast part of Australia, the only area which gets snow during the winter. She grew up playing many sports.
“I guess I was doing every sport I could get my hands on,” Wright said.
Not typically known for winter sports, Australia has a relatively small cross-country skiing community.
“I know all the cross-country skiers who have made the team,” Wright said. “All of us have been skiing together for pretty much our entire skiing careers, so we’re all pretty close.”
At UAA, she is coached by Andrew Kastning, associate coach for Nordic skiing.
“We’re really excited for her. It’s great for Seawolf nation to have an Olympian that’s currently on the roster,” Kastning said. “To be a full-time student and make an Olympic team is really, really cool.”
Managing a full course load on top of time-consuming practices and competitions is challenging, but doable for the physical education major.
“I am very lucky to have extremely accommodating professors. I honestly would not survive without the support of the PEP [physical education professional] department and my coaches,” Wright said.
Now a junior, Wright has been racing for UAA since 2016. She has already competed in other international championships for her home country. In 2012, she made her debut on the international stage, racing at the World Junior Championships and one year later the World University Championships. Still, she expects the winter games to be somewhat different.
“The Olympics are a totally different level of competition to anything I have experienced in the past,” Wright said.
Athletes competing at the games get much attention; this kind of publicity is new to the UAA skier.
“Usually, Australians don’t know much about winter sports. The Olympics is the only time where our sport gets a little bit of spotlight,” Wright said.
The traditional opening ceremony is a highlight for many competing athletes, including Wright. For her races, she does not want to put herself under too much pressure.
“I don’t really know what to expect, so I am just going to take it as it comes,” Wright said. “I know I will be racing the best skiers in the world, so my goal is to ski as well as I can and leave everything on the racecourse.”
Kastning is confident that his athlete will represent UAA well, regardless of the pressure big international competitions involve. He expected Wright to perform best in the classic sprint, which took place on Feb. 13. Wright did not place or win a medal.
“I’m sure it’ll be lots of butterflies for her on that type of stage, but no matter what she does, she made it there, she worked hard to get there and her result will make us proud,” Kastning said.
Wright joins former UAA hockey players Mat Robinson and Luka Vidmar who will compete for Canada and Slovenia in the Olympics.