Manly teenager Duncan Cowan is in Gangwon, South Korea, right now, as part of Australia’s team at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The 17 year old’s sport is Freestyle Skiing and he’s competing in the Men’s Ski Cross event. Duncan started skiing when he was just three years old. His parents are both keen skiers and after watching his older brother and sister on the slopes during family holidays at Perisher, he desperately wanted to join in the fun.
He’s spent his whole life in Manly and attended Manly Village Public School where he was on the Ski Team with a certain Joey Steggall.
He’s also been a member of Manly Life Saving Club “for as long as I can remember” and firmly believes everything he’s done in the water from the time he was a Nipper has helped his skiing.
“Like skiing, surf lifesaving is physically demanding… whether it’s beach sprints, swimming or surf ski and board events, you have to be fit and strong. And of course, riding a board involves balance too, again something shared with skiing. Everything I do at the Surf Club helps get me fit for the snow.”
Now a student at Shore School, Duncan has represented in Regional and State Interschool championships throughout his secondary education with the results he achieved there seeing him selected for major events like Junior World Championships.
One of the criteria for selection in the Youth Olympics is time spent skiing overseas and Duncan has competed everywhere from Italy to North America. In fact, it was just after returning to Sydney following impressive 4th and 5th placings at the North American Cup Tour in Nakiska, Canada last December, that Duncan saw his name on the Team Sheet for the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games. “It was an amazing feeling”, said Duncan. “It’s something I’ve aspired to since watching the Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer in 2016 as a nine year old.”
Of course, overseas travel is expensive. “I’m so grateful to my family. My mum, dad, brother and sister are absolutely my main support system. I’ve also had support from the surf club and other local people. Beyond that there’s Jake – my strength and conditioning coach – Ravi, my [chiro] and Dave, the owner of Recoverie in Manly, who all look after my physical wellbeing.
A talented athlete, Duncan just loves being in the mountains and the thrill he gains from skiing… fast! Last year he competed at the Ski Cross Junior World Championships in Passo San Pellegrino, Italy, placing eighth in the team event. Combined with his great run in Canada, these achievements saw him selected in the Australian Team to compete in the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
With this now ticked off his Wish List, Duncan’s new goal is to join the likes of fellow Ski Cross athlete Sami Kennedy-Sim, Freshwater’s Danielle Scott, Zali and Zeke Steggall and Maria Despas as full-fledged Winter Olympians to hail from the Beaches.
This year’s team is Australia’s largest ever contingent at a Winter Youth Olympic Games. The 47-strong team from right across the country will compete across eight disciplines from 19 January to 1 February.
Australian Chef De Mission and Vancouver 2010 Olympian Ramone Cooper, congratulated the team, saying, “To represent your country in your chosen sport and have the opportunity to don the green and gold is a proud achievement.
“The Youth Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for these young athletes, offering more than just a chance to compete on the global stage. It’s a platform for them to connect with other cultures, learn the Olympic values and develop important skills they can take with them as they continue to progress in their sporting careers.”
I spoke with Duncan soon after he’d arrived in the athlete’s village in Gangwon. He was buzzing. “It’s amazing… you’re shown to your room and there’s a suitcase there with all your Australian gear in it! And tonight I’m attending the Opening Ceremony, which will be incredible.”
He has been allocated two training runs to familiarise himself with the course and conditions ahead of his actual Race Days next week on the 23rd and 24th of January. Unfortunately, even though he knows some of his team mates from the slopes at Perisher, once he’s competed there won’t be much time to party. “I have to leave on the 28th, before the Games finish. I start school again on the 31st!”
More info on Gangwon 2024 – https://olympics.com/en/gangwon-2024/