As she grew up in the Woden area, Laura Peel’s passion was gymnastics. She would train 24 hours a week. But she was also a skier, thanks to her mother, Teresa.
The combination has helped make Laura a world champion with high hopes for Olympic gold.
Laura explains, “I learnt to ski at Perisher when I was about three years of age, and I started skiing more frequently when I was 10. But gymnastics was my priority when I was a kid. I never thought I would be elite. I didn’t have dreams of being an Olympian.”
At the time, she couldn’t have thought that 13 years later, she would be competing in her first Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, combining the skills she learnt at a young age as a gymnast and skier.
The journey leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi was far from direct and required persistent determination.
Laura completed high school at Merici before finishing college at Narrabundah with a focus on going to university. She retired from gymnastics when she was 18 years of age, and the possibility of an elite sporting career seemed to have evaporated.
“I started going to university and began working as well, but I realised that I hadn’t fulfilled my sporting dreams. So two weeks into my university course, I contacted the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia. I had an interview in Melbourne, did a trial, and I was accepted into the program.”
Inspired by Alisa Camplin’s gold medal-winning performance in 2002, the desire to compete at the Winter Olympics had become a priority.
Laura’s dreams became a reality in 2014 when she competed at the Sochi Winter Olympics. A year later, she won her first World Title in the aerials at Kreischberg, Austria.
She just missed out on a medal at the 2018 Games.
But in Kazakhstan in March this year, Laura won her second World Championship gold medal.
“Winning the World Championships this year was one of the highlights of my career,” says Laura. In so doing, Laura becomes the first Australian ever to win two World Championship golds.
It was a significant moment for Laura as she completed a jump she had only used once before. But that does no justice to the challenge her choice encompassed – the jump she performed is one of the most difficult for women.
She has also recently captured gold in two World Cups and two silver medals before taking out the overall World Cup prize. And she is now one of the favourites in the aerials for next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.
At 31 years of age, Laura says she is managing her workload. There have been injuries to contend with, including surgery on her ankle and shoulder. This is not an easy sport.
“It can be dangerous,” she says with considerable understatement.
“We practice in a big swimming pool with a new purpose-built winter sports training facility in Brisbane. I train with the Swiss team as well.”
She completed her Bachelor of Health Science (Food and Nutrition) degree through Charles Sturt University but putting that into practice will have to wait until about 2022. Travel, training and competitions have put everything else on hold.
After more than nine months on the road, she returned home in March.
“I love coming home to Canberra,” Laura says. It’s the place she can finally put her feet up. It’s a space that allows her time away from the frenetic pace of world cups and world championships. It is the place she calls home.