At just 19 years old, ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt already owns a groundbreaking resume.
Olympic bronze? Check. FIS World Cup gold? Check. Now, the Calgary, Alta. native can add a Nordic Ski World Juniors gold medal to her collection, emerging victorious in the individual women’s competition on Feb. 2 at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP).
Loutitt was expected to reach the podium at Thursday’s event in Callaghan Valley. She delivered, being the only woman to break 100 metres on any of her attempts. Two jumps past the century mark and solid style netted her 260.7 points, well ahead of her closest rival, Slovenian Nika Prevc (245.8). Bronze went to Julia Muehlbacher of Austria (221.1).
It’s a watershed win for Loutitt, who credits the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games for inspiring her to take up her sport. Now, she has triumphed on the very same hill that propelled Switzerland’s Simon Ammann to Olympic glory 12 years ago.
“It feels really good to be on top on home snow,” Loutitt said after the contest. “It's a very rare occasion to hold ski jumping events in Canada, let alone one of such high profile. Being able to win on home snow, on a hill that really made me the person I am today, is pretty special.”
Canadian ski jumpers almost never have the opportunity to showcase their talents domestically because of the dearth of available funding and facilities. In fact, Whistler houses the only operational hill in Canada, and it remains a great one thanks to WOP staff and those involved with the Black Tusk Nordic Events Society (BTNES) that sponsored this year’s World Juniors.
“Whistler is a world-class facility, and it's just sad that they don't have the funding to be treated that way,” said Loutitt. “They do their best with, you know, what little they get, but I'm so grateful for the sponsors that were able to make this happen. The conditions were perfect, and it doesn't get much better than that.”
Soaring into history
Were she to retire tomorrow, Loutitt would go out as one of the most distinguished Canadian ski jumpers of all time.
On Feb. 7, 2022, she helped fellow Calgarians Abigail Strate, Matthew Soukup and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes earn Canada’s first-ever Olympic ski jumping medal in Beijing. Then on Jan. 13 of this year, Loutitt became the first female Canadian ski jumper to win a World Cup event by prevailing in Zao, Japan. The only others to strike gold in World Cup ski jumping while wearing the Maple Leaf are Steve Collins in 1980 and Horst Bulau, who most recently did it in 1983.
Loutitt’s breakthrough in Japan seems even more impressive by the fact that she pulled it off weeks after healing from a fractured foot—and a misdiagnosed one to boot.
Last April, the Calgarian had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Then in July, she crashed and suffered a Lisfranc foot injury. Doctors originally thought she had sprained her ankle and needed only two weeks of rest or so, causing Loutitt to press on through tremendous pain until the order finally came through in mid-September for her to rest.
Loutitt worked on the mental side of being an athlete as she rehabbed her fractured foot, ensuring that her mind would stay sharp as her body healed. She welcomes pressure in the heat of competition for a very unique reason.
“My brain is like a block of Swiss cheese and has all these holes in it,” Loutitt explained. “I have random thoughts in all these little holes, but with a little bit of pressure, you kind of squish that down and all the holes go away. So, I feel like a little bit of pressure is good for me—it pushes me to perform better.”
Another source of motivation for the Beijing Olympian is her relationship with Prevc, one of her key opponents on the hill. Loutitt and her teammates train out of Slovenia because far more support for their discipline exists there. As a result, she knows Prevc well, and the two are friends outside of competition.
“I think it's actually a really good relationship,” said Loutitt. “It brings a lot of balance, because it keeps you grounded and it keeps you moving forward. [Prevc] is someone that you want to see succeed alongside you, and it feels good to share the podium with that kind of person.”
‘The heart and soul of a Canadian’
Unlike some athletes, Loutitt pays no heed to what her rivals are doing at each contest. She prefers to focus on what she can control—compressing her “Swiss cheese brain,” if you will—rather than allowing outside circumstances to affect her. For that reason, a tone-setting opening jump of 100.5 metres last Thursday had little bearing on her mindset, and her second attempt of 101.5 metres was just part of the process.
“I was in my own little world. My coach calls it my little bubble,” Loutitt said. “So I was in my bubble, and I was just worried about myself. If someone had an incredible jump, there's nothing I could do about that. I can only control my own jump and I can't control the conditions or the weather. So you've got to just focus on what you can do.”
Past doubters have insinuated that Loutitt should more or less give up. They thought that ski jumping as a sport would die out in Canada. She and her teammates are doing everything in their power to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“Abby [Strate] and I have really been pushing that boundary,” Loutitt said. “We're the underdogs, but we're here to fight and we're not going out without a fight. We're really making sure that our sport is going to thrive.”
“We've done a lot of work with our home club and other organizations to encourage young girls to start ski jumping as well as [encouraging] athletes to just stay passionate,” she continued. “Passion is why our team is so successful right now. Although we don't have the funding and support that big nations do, we have the heart and soul of a Canadian.”
Loutitt’s next World Cup competition is scheduled for Feb. 10-11 in Hinzenbach, Austria. She is approaching it the same way she does every contest: with an even keel and a focused mind. Every ski jumper—indeed every athlete—has a bad day every now and again, but Loutitt can be satisfied at the end of the day as long as she is making her goals realistic and pushing herself to be better.