Snowsports: Duo taking the slopes by storm

Scottish champions Eve McKenzie, left, and Vaila Chapman. Picture: Greg Macvean

Scottish champions Eve McKenzie, left, and Vaila Chapman. Picture: Greg Macvean

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They travel together, train together and win together – a partnership that has taken two of Scotland’s most talented snowsport enthusiasts to the top of the pile.

However, despite the continuity between 16-year-old Vaila Chapman and Eve MacKenzie, 12, there is one obvious distinction between the pair when it comes to their mode of transport down the slopes.

While Lasswade High pupil Vaila took the recent Scottish Women’s Championship title for freestyle snowboarding in the Cairngorms, Livingston’s Eve became one of the youngest champions to achieve the same feat on a pair of skis.

For snowboarder Vaila, the teenager is glad she can share the experience of the thrills and jumps a freestyle circuit entails, but admits skier Eve appears the more daring of the two.

“Eve is really good and has a lot of guts with what she does on the slopes.” Vaila said. “Our mums travel with us to competitions and take turn about with the travelling to training so it’s good as we enjoy snowboarding and skiing together.”

The pair both attend midweek training sessions through in Glasgow at Bearsden Ski and Board Club with Great Britain Junior Freestyle coach Neil MacGrain, an experience Vaila believes she has profited from after entering her first competition in May 2011. Ranked as the current No. 1 women’s freestyle snowboarder in the UK, Vaila has strengthened her position after securing the Scottish title.

She said: “The course up at Cairngorm was a lot different to what I had been used to so it was really challenging, but it picked up a bit and got a lot better. It takes about one minute to get from one end to the other but you need to keep going otherwise it will affect your performance. But it’s great to be Scottish champion and this definitely ranks at the top.”

Initially a keen skier herself, Vaila, who has also won the indoor and dry slope titles for snowboarding, made the transition from skis to board aged just eight. Despite suffering a severe knee injury in 2009 that required surgery to repair a damaged tendon, her ability on the board has earned her a place in the GB Junior squad.

Vaila said: “I saw boarders on the slopes and on TV at the Olympics and thought it was quite cool so I wanted to give it a try. I was used to skiing so it was a bit more difficult trying to adjust but I picked it up quite quickly. I would watch clips on YouTube and try them out on the slopes and would go to Hillend as much as I could.

“There are training camps at least twice per year with Great Britain which can be in Scotland, England and sometimes abroad as well. There is a lot of gym and overall performance work and I represent them in competitions as much as I can. I hope to go abroad more often and compete in European, World Championships and then one day make the Olympics.”

On the other hand, Eve’s rise to the top is quite remarkable considering her first taste of the winter sport arrived just over two years ago. Her crowning as Scottish Women’s champion for freestyle skiing is simply unique given her age, but the James Young High pupil appears to take it all in her stride.

Eve said: “A couple of days before the competition my skis broke so I had to be fitted for new ones but I wanted to compete for my granddad who passed away just a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if I would win, having to get used to new skis, but this is the best competition I have won.”

Already a student of the Scottish Development squad, Eve is ready to better her most recent achievement at the forthcoming British Championships and will also undertake a week’s training camp in France.

“I just find encouragement to do tricks and really just go for it because it is a lot of fun. Skiing is my favourite sport and I just love it. I have the British Championships coming up which I am so excited about and to win that would be amazing – it is one of my dreams.”

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