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Winter Olympics: Cross fire

HER name may suggest a fragile delicacy, but don't let that fool you.

Posy Musgrave   admits she wasn't quite ready for the Olympics in 2010
Posy Musgrave admits she wasn't quite ready for the Olympics in 2010

When it comes to gunning for Sochi 2014, the tenacity of Posy Musgrave shouldn't be under-estimated.

The cross country skier from Oyne, Aberdeenshire, is the top-ranked female sprinter in the UK and, after missing out on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, she is determined to be on the plane to Russia with the rest of Team GB two months from now.

"When you break it down into the training and races we still have left until Sochi, it's not that far away now," she said. "From January we'll no longer be looking at it in terms of months but rather days. It's starting to feel exciting now."

Musgrave, 27, has spent much of the past two decades with a pair of skis on her feet. She took up the sport while at primary school after her father, who works for an oil company, moved the family to Alaska when she was eight.

After they returned to Scotland when she was 14, Musgrave joined her local skiing club in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, where she trained under Roy Young, who still coaches her today. Having dabbled in downhill, it was cross country in which she quickly carved her niche, excelling in the sprint.

She made her international debut at the 2009 World University Games, competing at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 2011 and 2013. Musgrave names Oslo in 2011 as her most spine-tingling moment to date.

"Norway is the home of cross- country skiing," she says. "There were 100,000 people watching, lining the track as far as you could see and they had been camping out all weekend. Even if I ski another 10 years, I'll never get another experience like that again."

But there is every chance that Sochi could usurp that. Her world ranking is 110th in the sprint. To meet the Olympic qualifying standard she will need to be ranked 101st or higher on the FIS points list by January 20, with the team being announced two days later.

"It doesn't sound great, but when you translate it to how I hope to go in the Olympics it's actually going to be quite a lot higher," she says. "Half of those in front of me are Norwegians and they aren't all going to be there. Realistically, top 30 or 40 is what I'm aiming for in Sochi."

With hindsight Musgrave concedes she wasn't quite ready for the Winter Olympics in 2010. "It would have been great to go and I was down on the list, but always knew it was a long shot," she says. "The year leading up to Vancouver was only the first one I'd been training full time. In the four years since, I have come a long way and feel that if I do go this time I can achieve a much better result than had I gone then."

She receives funding from the Skiers Trust and Talented Athletes Scholarship Scheme (TASS) as well as support from sportscotland institute of sport, but the road to Sochi remains potted with challenges.

"We are only a small sport so you have to pay your own way a lot of this time," says Musgrave. "This year, in order to be able to afford to train full time, I've moved back in with my parents. It's a tough sport too and not easy to get good. It's been four years of training hard. Sometimes it doesn't feel like you are going forward that quickly, but you have to keep persevering."

For the past 18 months, Musgrave has been studying for an MA in Applied Translation Studies at London Metropolitan University. "It's quite handy because I study Russian, so everyone tells me I'm going to be the translator when we are in Sochi," she says.

"At the test event last year I taught the boys some phrases, although nothing useful in the slightest. They wanted to know how to say things like 'I'm wearing yellow socks' and lines for chatting up the girls."

"The boys" - as she calls them - include younger brother Andrew, four years her junior, who has already pre-qualified for Sochi. This will be his second Games having competed in Vancouver as part of the first GB cross country ski team to take part in an Olympics since 1994.

The suggestion of fierce sibling rivalry between her and Andrew prompts a hearty laugh.

"It's lucky he's my brother - if I had a sister it might be worse," she jokes. "That said, I remember the first time he beat me in a race. I was 15 and up until then he'd been my little brother I could always beat. I was fairly devastated, but I've just about got over it 12 years later. Now I'm mostly proud of him. Although I don't say that too often. I have to keep him in his place."

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