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21 September 2018 | in Education, Winter Universiade, FISU Athletes

Athlete in Focus: Rising Ski Cross Star Zoé Cheli

Cool as a cucumber, tough as nails


Picture courtesy:Swiss SkiLAUSANNE — When you first meet Swiss Ski Cross star Zoé Cheli, you could easily be misled by her soft spoken manner and cherubic good looks. But the young student athlete is tougher than her appearance lets on. You learn that as soon as you hear why she chose this particular discipline. 


“It was my brother who first tried Ski Cross and as soon as I saw it, I decided it was my sport,” says the 22-year old with authority. “I was into Alpine Skiing before, but this was definitely more my thing.”


“In Alpine, it's you against something intangible - the time. But Ski Cross is pure racing. It’s you in close combat against the other person. Straight up competition,” she says with obvious delight. 


The competitive streak is instantly obvious again when she speaks of her experience at the FISU Universiades. She has participated in two Winter Universiades - the Granada 2015 Winter Universiade and the 2017 edition in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


She was still a teenager in the 2015 edition, so she shrugs off her fifth place finish there, but missing out on a bronze medal at Almaty still hurts. 


“It was not my objective,” she says of her fourth place finish. "I wanted to come back with a medal. The worst place you can get in a final is fourth. I had started well, but it was just not a good day for me.”

Thankfully, the rest of the experiences at the Universiades seem to have made up somewhat, for the disappointment of missing out on the podium. 


“It was a great experience,” she reminisces, with a smile. “Both were very different, in fact. Granada was my first time at an international multi-sport event. It was amazing to meet so many people and Granada is a really nice city. The second time in Almaty was definitely more serious. The organisation was on a grand scale, including the athletes’ village and everything. Kazakhstan was an awesome experience.”


Zoé has been a member of the Swiss Ski Cross team for 3 years now and has been been skiing competitively since a young age. Yet, she is equally serious about her education and is currently studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at the Faculty of Geosciences, University of Lausanne (UNIL). 


“I get so much back from having two different passions at the same time,” explains Zoé, speaking of how rewarding it is, to balance academics and sport. “Both give me a sense of satisfaction. Fifteen years in the future, I think I may be done with competitive skiing and I see myself working for the environment, to save the environment. I don’t know if my competitive career will help me, but I will continue doing sports because it is a balance I cannot live without.”


Her intellectual leanings can also be gauged from her choice in literature and popular culture, with her favourites being Gabriel García Márquez’s classic novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and the Oscar-winning film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’.


Ask her about her favourite athlete though, and pat comes the answer “None.” She means it. Prodded again, she says “No, none,” with finality. Almost as though she sets her own standards. 


And once again, you get a glimpse into why Zoé Cheli is a rising star in her sport and well on her way to being an accomplished elite athlete. 

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