Mia Nuriah Freudweiler is a 16-year-old Pakistani-Swiss skier who has recently achieved a great milestone in her young career by qualifying for the Youth Olympic Games 2020 to be held in Lausanne, where she will be representing Pakistan as an alpine skier for slalom and giant slalom. She will also be taking part in the opening ceremony of the games as the sole Pakistani athlete, on the 9th of January. DESTINATIONS speaks to this inspirational young athlete about her journey so far and what it means to be representing Pakistan at an international level.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where have you grown up, how did you get into sports and skiing in particular, and what has your journey been like so far?
My name is Mia Nuriah Freudweiler, I am 16 years old and I have grown up in a Swiss mountain village in the Alps called Villars-sur-Ollon. I have two sisters, Sophia and Leyla. Villars is primarily a ski resort and we have all grown up in the ski club from a young age. Sophia, the younger one is still training and doing the races we used to do. Leyla is now a ski teacher at the Swiss Ski School. Villars is a very nice and family-oriented ski station, everybody over here skis so the first time I tried the sport was when I was 2 years old. Our parents would go skiing with us and signed us up for lessons with the ski school. During the season, my sister and I would ski every Wednesday afternoon (in Switzerland, we have Wednesday afternoons off to do activities and hobbies) and on the weekends. We then entered the village’s ski club – that’s where we improved our technique and where we would train. I participated in all the regional races and had some good results. A couple of years later, I entered the regional team called “Ski Romand.” I was in a group with all the best skiers of the region and we would do a lot of physical and ski training during the summer, autumn and winter together. It was lots of fun but hard work. I started taking part in races at a higher level when I was 14: inter-regional races (that groups together all the French speaking part of Switzerland) where I did a top 15 and a national race where I did a top 30.
Have your parents played a big role in your young career?
My parents have played a huge role. They accepted the skiing world without a problem, and sacrificed lots of weekends to be on the side on the slope and support me in the cold during my races. My father prepared all of my ski equipment for a couple of years while my mother prepared all the snacks and made sure I had everything I needed. Every time I was disappointed or had a down, they were there to cheer me up. They drove me to all my training sessions and races, and they took care of all the logistics. They gave me the opportunity to take up a high-level sport andI definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
What excites you the most about a career as an athlete?
First of all, I am not a full-time athlete because I still go to school and have homework and tests! Being a skier is very demanding, as I have to train physically on a regular basis to stay fit, I have to improve my ski technique and prepare and organize my equipment. But what excites me most is the fact that I love skiing, the sensation of freedom and the adrenalin when I am on the slopes. It is exciting to participate in the sport that I love at a high level and compete in races. I love making progress and seeing my hard work and discipline pay off.
How do you handle stress and pressure?
Over the years, I have taken part in many races so being under pressure is nothing new for me. At the beginning of every race I know that I am here to enjoy myself, have fun, ski like I always do and give it my all. There have been many races where I was very nervous at the beginning, but you just have to take a deep breath and keep your head cool.
How close do you feel to Pakistan? And how do you feel that you can inspire young Pakistani athletes/skiers?
I have only been to Pakistan twice when I was younger, to visit my great grandmother. I have very fond memories of Pakistan. I remember cooking with my nani, I remember the hot air and the smell when we came out of the plane, I remember the Juma Bazaar and the Sindh Club in Karachi, I remember riding a horse on the beach. Even though I haven’t been to visit Pakistan every year, we have frequently celebrated Eid with my extended family in Switzerland or in London. I have always enjoyed this celebration and especially the good food – biryani, badaam ka halwa, sheer khorma and sabzi.
To aspiring athletes, I would say that you should pursue your passion, an activity or hobby that makes you happy. Don’t be afraid to fail or lose confidence, as there are always difficult times, but you should never give up as overcoming obstacles is what’s important. You can achieve anything if you are dedicated and hard working. So stick to it and you will be proud of yourself!
Have you ever visited Pakistan’s ski resorts? Would you like to?
No, I haven’t visited Pakistan’s ski resorts yet, but I would absolutely love to.
What are your plans for the future?
After the Youth Olympic Games, I will continue to train a little bit and take part in a couple of races. I would like to continue ski racing and hope that I will still make progress and improve my skiing. I might even consider taking part in the Olympics in Beijing 2022!