Meet Ana Noelle Reynado Wahleithner, the first Filipina to qualify to compete at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG).
The 16-year-old skier was confirmed by the Philippine Olympic Committee and announced in early October by the Philippine Ski Federation as the first Filipina to represent the Philippines at the 2020 Winter YOG to be held in January in Lausanne, Switzerland.
United States-based Ana Wahleithner holds an International Ski Federation (FIS) license registered under the Philippines and has amassed points in FIS-sanctioned races in 2019 to secure the berth at the 2020 Winter Olympics.
The young Filipino-American was born to Filipina Lady Angela Reynado of Davao and American citizen James K. Wahleithner. Angela Wahleithner went to College at Saint Louis University in Baguio and left for the U.S. after graduating in 1985. She joined the U.S. Air Force in 1986 where she eventually met her husband, Ana’s father.
Ana is a junior student at Norden, California’s Sugar Bowl Ski Academy, a college preparatory academy for competitive skiers. The alpine training is integrated into their school program and Ana races and trains with her school. The school aligns their training with the standards of the U.S. SKI and Snowboard Team where they get training both on and off-snow year-round. When the race season is over and in the summer, they continue to train on or off snow depending on snow conditions in the US or internationally.
Prior to qualifying for the Winter Olympics, Ana Wahleithner competed in several skiing competitions, among them, the international alpine skiing competition in Cardrona, New Zealand, and the Alpine Skiing Junior World Championship (JWC) in Val Di Fassa, Italy.
Good News Pilipinas interviewed Ana Wahleithner about her thoughts on representing the Philippines.
Good News Pilipinas (GNP): What was your reaction upon getting confirmation from the Philippine Olympic Committee that you qualified to represent the Philippines at the 2020 Winter YOG?
Ana Wahleithner (Ana): I am very happy and excited to be officially notified that I will be representing the Philippines in the Winter YOG in Lausanne. It is an honor to be the first Filipina to be in any Winter Olympic event.
GNP: What tournaments did you have to go through before being qualified for the Winter YOG?
Ana: First, I had to compete at the 2019 Alpine Skiing Junior World Championship (JWC). But, to qualify for the Alpine Skiing Junior World Championship, I needed to do two things: have a FIS license representing the Philippines and competed in an international level before the JWC – I did by racing in 2018 in Cardrona, New Zealand. The key criteria for getting to the Alpine Skiing qualification at the YOG was participating in and completing the 2019 Alpine Skiing Junior World Championship (Val Di Fassa, Italy) in Feb 2019 representing the Philippines. I successfully competed in the Slalom (102 competitors) and Giant Slalom Events (117 competitors). As a result, I was able to gain a slot for a female alpine skiing competitor for the Philippines for the 2020 Winter YOG. The JWC is for athletes 15 to 20 years old. I just turned 16 in December when I competed at the JWC. Also, the age limit for Alpine skiing in the YOG is 16 to 17. I turn 17 in December 2019. Racing at the JWC enabled me to see and observe potential competitors at the upcoming YOG.
GNP: What support do you get for your training as you prepare to represent the Philippines in the Winter Olympics?
Ana: My parents fully fund my love of this sport and also a lot of support from my sister, Katharyn. In 2018, I had a Go Fund Me page to help support my participation at the 2019 Alpine Skiing Junior World Championship (Val Di Fassa, Italy) in February 2019. A lot of the Go Fund Me response was from my family and my family’s friends. We also sold t-shirts, beanie hats, and water bottles at the 2018 Pistahan Filipino festival in San Francisco to help raise funds.
GNP: What is it like to train in Switzerland, the site of next year’s Winter YOG?
Ana: The experience in Switzerland helped give a good understanding of the mountains in Switzerland. Every mountain and condition is different. Each race run is different since the runs are set by different coaches and countries who have different experiences and backgrounds. They are set to challenge the competitors within racing guidelines.
Based on the current racing schedule, I will be competing in 6 to 8 races in the US before the YOG and possibly 14 to 18 races after the YOG. They are across the US in Montana, Wyoming, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado. The racing season can go through April or May depending on snow conditions.
GNP: What are you setting your sights on beyond the Winter Olympics?
Ana: I am also looking forward to representing the Philippines in the Asian Winter Games in 2021. That is when the next Asian Winter Games will be. The Philippines has not been represented in Alpine Skiing there before.
Hopefully, the rest of the Philippine Alpine Ski Team can be there also – Asa Miller, Gavin Chen and Marco Umgeher. Do you know that we have never met each other as a team because we are in different countries and states? Asa is in Colorado, Gavin is in the east coast and Marco is in Austria.
Other Philippine athletes have met each other as a team, but not us because of the unique situation of our sport.
GNP: What would you want to do with them when you finally meet face to face as a team?
Ana: The competitions have a team event category. This would be our opportunity to race as a team. Also train together as a team, giving each other support and pointers in technique and how to handle future competitions.
GNP: What would you like to tell other Filipino youth who are dreaming of qualifying and being in the Olympics?
Ana: I am very honored to represent the Philippines and show that Filipinas can be in the Winter Olympics. Getting to the Olympics was a big dream of mine. I have the opportunity to do it and I am focusing on that goal. I believe in appreciating your opportunity and doing your best since there are many who are supporting you in many ways as you go through the journey.
SEND cheers and well wishes in the comments below to Ana Wahleithner, the Philippines’ medal hope at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games!
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