Tessa Worley made her World Cup debut in February 2006, aged 16.
But even after a 14-year career which includes 13 victories, 30 podiums, and two world titles, the French skier is determined to add more silverware to her trophy cabinet.
In a very candid conversation, the giant slalom queen opens up about her career achievements ("I don't think I've got anything more to prove"), setting an example for the new generation, and leaving a lasting legacy.
Ahead of a season which culminates at February's World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, the 31-year-old was also reflective about her future.
"I haven't decided on anything yet, but I know that they might be my last World Championships, so I'm committed to leaving one last mark and fully enjoying those moments". - Tessa Worley to Olympic Channel
Cirque Blanc follows the French women's team, training and competing for the speed events (downhill and super G) in a season interrupted by the COVID pandemic.
The following interview has been edited for clarity purposes.
Olympic Channel: You have been performing consistently for over a decade, so how have you managed to stay at the top for so long despite several injuries?
Tessa Worley: I would say you need enthusiasm when you go to the training sessions, to the competitions. You need to wake up with enthusiasm every day throughout the year. You also need to smile. That helps you face the training sessions. Some training sessions can be more amusing than others; sometimes they can be hard.
You also need to be surrounded by good, kind people; by people who can take the best out of you. I also think that you need to be happy with your own life. That’s going to help you become a calmer athlete. No doubt, you need to have a strong team around. You know, being an athlete can be difficult sometimes. You need people around you, you also need to be able to overcome those tough moments, to stand up again and become a better athlete.
OC: You are the most successful French woman over the last few years and you are seen as a leader by your teammates, how does that feel?
TW: Being (the person that sets) an example is something that has come to me fairly recently. I didn’t realise the impact that an athlete’s career could have. But it’s true that as I've become more experienced, I’ve realised that I'm more and more surrounded by younger people.
It’s a pleasure to share my experience and feelings with them, to get to know them and somehow to be an example, to motivate them to do what I’m doing, to surpass themselves, to be the best version of themselves. - Tessa Worley
OC: What advice do you give them?
TW: What I hope is for them to experience what I experienced myself, especially the successes I could achieve. They’re intense emotions, and massive life experiences too. They’re also unique learnings. But I think every one of them has their own different path. I don’t think you should try to imitate someone else’s achievements. We all have our own way of succeeding, and of doing things too. Therefore, just find your own path and way of doing things, and try to experience joyful moments skiing and sports in general can generate.
OC: Have you already started to reflect on you career's achievements?
TW: I haven’t completely looked back on my career achievements yet. I’m very happy with my achievements and successes, and I don’t think I’ve got anything more to prove, and yes, I’m proud of it. But as I was saying, I haven’t looked back on what I’ve achieved since I was 15 or 16.
I think I’ll be happy to leave a small mark in the French team’s history. Hopefully, it can inspire the youngsters and they can perform even better. Tessa Worley
OC: What is the best way to approach giant slalom skiing?
TW: You have to be a bit tactical sometimes, because the runs are more winding and difficult. You have to think things over a bit more beforehand. It also takes place over two rounds. My philosophy is always to be at my absolute best in both rounds. If you’ve had a bad first run you can’t give up, you still have a second run in which anything can happen. Also, what I like in the giant slalom - my discipline - is that there’s a little game, a little mental game in the second run, in showing everyone’s who’s the best. So there's a psychological aspect to it which is interesting.
OC: The World Championships will take place in February in Italy: what would it mean to win your third title there?
TW: It would certainly make me happy. It’s something that motivates me. That’s what I work towards. This competition has been kind with me twice already, so I want to relive those kinds of emotions. I haven’t decided on anything yet, but I know that they might be my last World Championships, so I'm committed on leaving one last mark and fully enjoying those moments. When I can appreciate things and when I’m relaxed and calm, it goes well. So, I’ll try to get myself into that mindset.