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Whistler's Tirza Lara set to race in Junior World Championships

The Team Canada skeleton athlete returns to action Jan. 13 in Winterberg, Germany

As a member of Canada's national NextGen program, Tirza Lara is one of the more promising skeleton athletes in the country. The 21-year-old grew up in Calgary, Alta. and Merritt, B.C. but now splits her time between Whistler and Sun Peaks, B.C. This week, though, she's in Winterberg, Germany, training for the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) Junior World Championships on Jan. 13. 

Lara has six top-10 finishes on the North American Cup circuit this season, including a third-place result on Dec. 2 in Lake Placid, N.Y. She hasn't finished lower than sixth since Nov. 12, when she placed eighth at the Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC), and looks to carry that momentum forward. 

"If someone told me 10 years ago where I would be today and what I’m doing, I would be shocked," Lara wrote on her fundraising page, where supporters have donated over $2900 to help subsidize her trip to Germany. "Originally, I did ballet for nearly 11 years but was forced to quit due to a knee injury. Hoping to continue leading an athletic and disciplined lifestyle, witnessing the Olympics and a Google search brought me to skeleton. For my 16th birthday, I asked to do the Youth Discover Skeleton experience at the Whistler Sliding Centre, and it was love at first slide." 

Lara was so immediately enamoured with the sport of skeleton that she relocated her life to Whistler at 16 years old, with her final year of high school still ahead at the time. Nowadays, she is working towards a bachelor's degree in human science by way of Athabasca University. 

Currently an ocean away from her home track in Whistler, Lara is no doubt hoping for a raucous crowd to fuel her fire on race day. "I do feed off of people's energy, I found through trial and error," she said. "When I'm sprinting, I love it when someone's yelling at me. I'll ask my coaches to yell at me. 

"The reason I feed off of that is because I tend to get very much into my head, so if it's very quiet, then I can hear those voices [of doubt] in my head. But, when people are screaming, when the cowbells are going off, all of that kind of, like, shuts off. There's no room for that voice to be heard, and I can focus on what I'm what I'm here to execute."