“It’s huge to be taking part in the Games,” says 18-year-old Coline Mattel. “It’s what every sportswoman dreams about and it’s a really big thing for us. When we heard in 2011 that the IOC had included women’s ski jumping on the programme at Sochi, our mindsets began to change. We all became more involved and more serious about training. It’s going to be amazing for all of us to share the stage with the world’s best athletes.” The French athlete, who hails from Contamines-Montjoie, is regarded as one of the finest female ski jumpers in the world along with the USA’s Sarah Hendrickson, Austria’s Daniela Iraschko, Japan’s Sara Takanashi and Slovenia’s Katja Pozun.
Like most youngsters growing up in the mountains, Coline started out in Alpine skiing, but her passion for ski jumping was ignited at a very early age: “What I love is feeling that fear at the top of the hill and being able to conquer it. There’s nothing else quite like it.” She burst on to the international scene at the age of 13, winning bronze at the 2009 FIS World Junior Ski Championships in Strbske Pleso, Slovakia and going on to finish fifth when women’s ski jumping made its debut at the World Ski Championships later that year in Liberec.
Laying down a marker
Her own ascendancy has coincided with that of women’s ski jumping, which graduated from Continental Cup status to become a fully fledged FIS World Cup sport in 2011. That same year, Mattel made a little piece of history when she took third place in the World Ski Championships at Oslo, earning France its first ever ski jumping medal on the global stage. However the achievement left her less than completely satisfied. “I didn’t make the most of my opportunity, and I was disappointed I didn’t do better,” she later said.
Crowned junior world champion at Otepaa, Estonia, in January 2011, Mattel scored her first World Cup win at an Olympic test event on the RusSki Gorki hill in December 2012. “I really like the hill. It will be great to go back and to see the site finished,” she commented afterwards. “This win will give me a lot of confidence too.”
A performing arts student, Mattel has her sights set on nothing less than victory at Sochi 2014 and, thanks to a funding programme, has been able to devote her energies to that challenge full time. As she continues to hone her technique, the intrepid French jumper is intent on making a date with history and securing gold on 11 February 2014.
Discover Women's Ski Jumping, one of the the twelve new winter sports events for Sochi 2014.