Swapping surf for snow, the Innsbruck 2012 buzz hits Down Under

Hoping to swap the surf of sunny Australia for the slopes of snowy Austria, 16-year-old Alex Fitch took one step closer to competing at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games this month by becoming overall female champion at the Australian Junior Snowboard Series.

The talented young athlete - who got into the sport aged just eight after her brother strapped her to a board and pushed her down a snowy street while on a family holiday - qualified Australia for a spot at Innsbruck 2012 in both halfpipe and slopestyle with her performance at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Italy in April.

But Alex does not automatically qualify. She still needs to demonstrate she deserves a place on the Australian team to be nominated and selected. And judging by the way her season is going, things are looking good.

“I’m really excited about Innsbruck,” she said, hopefully. “I’ve never competed in that sort of Olympic environment before so it would be an awesome experience. I think the atmosphere will be really amazing with all the athletes from other sports in one place.”

Hailing from the sunny Central Coast of Australia, Alex, who also surfs, admits snowboarding is not the obvious choice of pastime.

“My friends back home on the Central Coast don’t really get it,” she said. “They question why I would want to be in the winter all the time – being from the beach, a lot of my friends are surfers.

“Some of my friends came and watched me compete a little while back and they asked me if they were the biggest jumps I competed on. I just laughed and said – No, they get a lot bigger than that.”

Good luck to Alex and all the other athletes hoping to make it to the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games! We will keep our fingers crossed.