Skier from Mexico chases her Olympic dreams in Alaska

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 10:37 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are less than 40 days away, and Karla Schleske Shepard wants to become the first woman from Mexico to ever cross-country ski in the Olympics.

With no training opportunities in Mexico, she turned to Alaska Winter Stars coach Jan Buron to help her chase her Olympic dream. She moved to Alaska over the summer where they began dryland training, and began competing in races this winter.

“It’s been awesome for sure. I’m loving it,” Schleske Shepard said. “The views, the mountains, the trails for skiing. They’re just amazing for training.”

Prior to skiing, Schleske Shepard was a heptathlete on the national team in Mexico and had aspirations to make the Summer Olympics.

Her 14-year career was cut short due to a seizure in 2019, when she lost consciousness. It took three months before a neurologist was able to prescribe her a new medicine that worked.

She began training again and devoted herself to cross-country skiing after hearing about the sport from a friend. This led her to email Buron to ask to come up to Alaska after the ski coach agreed to instruct her.

She’s competed in six races so far and became Mexico’s first-ever national champion in women’s cross-country skiing. The second national championship with Mexican skiers was held in Canmore, Canada, and Schleske Shepard was the only woman to race while six skiers competed in the men’s race.

“You can do whatever sport you want in life, and just enjoy it and go for it,” Schleske Shepard said. “It’s never too late. We only have one life.”

Her results at the Mexican nationals do not qualify her for the Olympics, as she needs to meet the Olympic standard of less than 300 FIS points during a race. Buron said she’ll have four more opportunities to meet that standard at the U.S. Nationals in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

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