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Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Aussie Yeaton braves bears to chase Olympic dream

Randy Mancini 34 Feb 2
FILE PHOTO: Australian cross-country skier Jessica Yeaton competes in 2018 Winter Olmpics
FILE PHOTO: Cross-Country Skiing – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Women's Sprint Classic Qualifications – Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre – Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 13, 2018 - Jessica Yeaton of Australia competes. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

February 2, 2022

By Philip O’Connor

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Australian cross-country skier Jessica Yeaton has taken more risks than most on her way to the Beijing Olympics, braving meetings with wild animals such as bears and moose while training in the Alaskan forests.

After spending her childhood in the warmer climates of Perth, Texas and Dubai, Yeaton moved to Alaska at the age of 12 and fell in love with the snow and skiing, despite the risk of running into some big creatures while out training.

“Two years ago I was out training, biking with my boyfriend, and we ran into two grizzly bears, and they both got up on their hind legs and were grunting at us,” Yeaton told reporters, mimicking a bear with its paws up.  

“I thought that was the end – (but) if you were in Alaska you would tell that story to other athletes, and they would be like, ‘oh yeah, me too!'”

Yeaton said she had also run into moose while training on the ski trails in Alaska, but that it wasn’t enough to make her consider moving somewhere else.

“I think I prefer actually training in places where I can be out on my own and not have to worry about that kind of thing,” she explained.

“The training is great there, if you have friends around it’s fine, but just doing things by yourself maybe not, but for the most part it’s OK.” 

The Aussie team, who will be outsiders in their Olympic competitions, embraced the animal metaphors while describing their styles, with Seve de Campo likening himself to a monkey swinging between vines when his technique is working well.

Asked if he had the same feeling, de Campo’s team-mate Phil Bellingham picked a slightly less graceful creature.

“Probably not like a monkey swinging on vines, more like a rhinoceros on a skateboard for me,” he said, smiling behind his mask.

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)