Rising alpine skiing star Chloe Cornu Wong was born to a French father and a Chinese mother, but she feels as at home in Hong Kong as she does in the French Alps, where she is training for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The 14-year-old was clearly in her element standing amid the snow-topped mountains and milky expanses of France’s Val Thorens ski resort. Though she has made it onto Hong Kong’s national ski team, she still finds it hard to believe that she’s made it this far.
“I’m living a dream, wide awake,” she said. “And I am so happy with that, because I started skiing at the age of three ... I don’t think I was even dreaming of getting to this level then!”
The “Winter Wonderkid”, as one French magazine dubbed her, should get used to it. She is already getting used to the travel that comes with representing a national squad. Her regular schedule consists of travelling back and forth between her family home in Colomars, in the hills above Nice, France, and her alpine boarding school, not to mention travelling the world to participate in competitions.
“To be honest, skiing is totally integrated in my life,” said Chloe. “Now I am studying skiing at the College Jean Franco in Saint Etienne de Tinée, where skiing is part of my school life. The school specialises in mountain sports, so I practise skiing 140 days a year.”
The teenager has been preparing for skiing competitions since she was eight, and now almost relishes the gruelling training regime and nearly 12-hour days at Val Thorens.
“In the morning, we head off to practise slalom (skiing on a zigzag or wavy course between obstacles), or giant slalom, either alone or with our coach Marko Rudi, for three hours. After lunch at Club Med, we ski for a further three hours, the whole time thinking about our faults and concentrating on improving our technique based on input from Marko."
“After returning to Club Med we have a stretching session, then at 6pm we meet up and discuss our progress and [plan] the next day’s programme,” she says.
You might think this is a lot to take on, but Chloe takes it in stride because she genuinely loves it. She says the giant slalom and Super-G (super giant slalom) are her passions, and that she aspires to be like fellow young alpine ski racers Mikaela Shiffrin and Tessa Worley.
“There is always a kind of pressure, because of my age, but I try to focus on my skiing and improving that. I also have a [great] coach [French alpine skier Raphaëlle Blum], who helps me."
She makes sure she puts enough effort into studying, too; “otherwise,” she grins, “my mom would not be happy!”
Despite the pressure to perform well on the slopes and at school, Chloe says she has a lot of fun with her teammates, and feels most relaxed when in her skis. No wonder she refers to her life as a fairy tale.