Since representing Great Britain at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Innsbruck 2012, Rachelle Rogers reveals how she has swapped her skis for the cockpit as she pursues a new career as a commercial pilot.
Rachelle Rogers was just 16 years old when she played her part in Olympic history, one of 1,022 athletes to compete in the first edition of the Winter YOG in Innsbruck. The Surrey teenager raced in four Alpine skiing events on the slopes of Patscherkofel, in what was an exciting and bold new chapter in the story of the Olympic Movement.
While Rogers might not have returned home from Innsbruck with a medal after competing in the Super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined events, her absence from the podium did nothing to dim her enthusiasm for the ground-breaking YOG.
“It was quite simply an once-in-a-lifetime experience which I shall cherish forever,” she says. “I felt so lucky to have been part of something really special. The Youth Olympic Games not only allow young people from all over the world to come together and share a unique opportunity, they teach the meaning of Olympism through participating in the Culture & Education Programme.
It was quite simply an once-in-a-lifetime experience which I shall cherish foreverRachelle Rogers
“One element of the experience which stood out for me was the mixed nation team events. Although there were none for my own sport, I thought they were a fantastic way of putting Olympism into action and teaching young people the importance of international cooperation and respect for other people.”
After Innsbruck, Rogers went on to represent Great Britain at the World Junior Alpine Skiing Championships in Slovakia in 2014, and in Hafjell in Norway the following year; but since 2016 she has been pursuing a new career that has taken her far away from the snow – and into the sky.
“Over the last 14 months, I have been studying at FTE Jerez in Spain, which is one of the leading flight training organisations for airline pilots in Europe,” she says. “I graduated at the beginning of March and I was awarded ‘Best Overall Pilot’ on my course. What was even more special was that, out of the three graduates being considered for the award, two of us were female. I recently applied for a job with a commercial airline and was accepted, and I’m hoping to begin work soon.”
The parallels between competitive skiing and commercial flying may not seem immediately obvious, but Rogers insists her experiences in Innsbruck five years ago on and off the slopes have played a significant role in her journey to a post-Youth Olympic career as a pilot.
“At the YOG I learnt what it means to be an ambassador for your country and the associated expectations, especially at such a high-profile event,” she says. “As a result, I understand the implications of wearing a pilot’s uniform for a future employer. I will be an ambassador for my employer, representing the company, and I know certain expectations will come with such a privilege. I will be just as proud to wear the uniform for an airline as I was proud to wear the sports kit for Team GB at the YOG.
“I feel my experiences as both an elite athlete and an Olympian have really benefited me in the newest chapter in my life. The enthusiasm, dedication and work ethic I developed as an alpine skier, as well as dealing with high-pressure situations and constant challenges, have really helped me build a solid foundation to my career as a commercial pilot.”
The transition from Olympian to earning a living is one that competitive athletes have to negotiate sooner or later, and while some may opt to pursue a sports-related career, Rogers believes those thinking about their future need not necessarily limit themselves exclusively to what they already know.
“Being exposed to Olympism at such a young age changed me as a person and equipped me with fundamental life skills,” she says. “I hope my story, and how seemingly different my past and present careers are, will inspire young people, especially girls, to achieve whatever they put their mind to.“I will never forget my time in Innsbruck and the people I met. It will always hold a special place in my heart.”