Two years after skiing on snow for the first time, Brazil’s Taynara da Silva still feels the jitters before a descent.
After all, skiing does not come naturally to someone from a country better known for its beaches and rainforests.
Yet Da Silva has taken on not one, but two winter sports. The 17-year-old competed in biathlon in the first week of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, and now turns her attention to cross-country skiing.
“I thought it would be really nice because I love both sports,” she said. “Both are really interesting to me.”
Da Silva admitted the steeper sections still frighten her, but said she overcomes this fear with the help of her teammate.
“When I train with Eduarda (Ribera, BRA) we both get scared of the downhills and we motivate each other and say 'we can do this',” she said. “We go together, and we often fall and we laugh a lot.
“I have the opportunity to see snow. Many people in Brazil have never seen snow. It’s something others can’t experience and I feel lucky to be able to.”
Da Silva's introduction to snow sports came through a roller ski programme in her home city of Jundiai, in Sao Paulo state. Roller skiing simulates techniques required for skiing on snow and she excelled at it.
She now spends three months of the year away from home: two months in Europe for winter there, and one month in Chile or Argentina for the southern hemisphere winter.
“Some details for technique you can only do on snow, so I sometimes have to adapt in a few days before I compete,” she said. “I have to be fast to adapt to these small details. Every time I try to improve a little bit.
Making tracks: four Mongolian cross-country 🇲🇳 skiers are at Lausanne 2020 thanks to the dream of a Swiss doctor 🇨🇭❄️ #YOG #YouthOlympicGames #Mongolia— Olympic Information Service (@OIS_Olympic) January 18, 2020
👉 https://t.co/zcscglBvmy pic.twitter.com/ho6u7dZhM3
“The biggest difficulty these days is that I come to Europe and I’m the only one from Brazil. I don’t speak English. It’s a big barrier, I can’t communicate with [people I train with]. That’s the hard part. Sometimes I feel really lonely.
“In the beginning, I always questioned [why I do it]. I’m far from my parents, it’s so hard.
“But I understand now that if I want to become a good athlete I need to evolve and adapt and become a mature person. Sport is helping me become more mature, and face challenges.”
In the three cross-country events she goes in this week, Da Silva is hoping to finish further up the field than she did in biathlon. She was 92nd out of 97 in the women's individual 10km, and 94th out of 97 in the 6km sprint.
But just being at the Youth Olympic Games is a major achievement, and Da Silva even joked about taking up a third winter sport.
“I started cross-country at 15, biathlon at 16, and now that I am 17 I’ll choose another sport,” she said. “Maybe figure skating. I can spin, but I can’t see myself jumping.”