The Mental Series: Ania Caill

This episode of the Mental Series is with Romanian star athlete and olympian, Ania Caill. Ania reviews her journey, and highlights that her motivation and persistence is driven by her love and passion for skiing.

Please introduce yourself.

Ania Caill, 27 years old. I’m half French, half Romanian. I was born in France, but I have been skiing for Romania for 10 years already.

How and when did skiing come into your life?

I learned to ski when I was 7 years old, which is a bit late. At the same time, I practiced swimming and ice-skating. The decision to ski came quite naturally, when I had to choose at high school. Since a young age, I have had a big love for it - it never felt like hard work, it was just fun.

When did you understand that you could have become a professional?

I started late. In my first competition, I was far behind other skiers. Nonetheless, I progressed very fast. From one year to next, I went from being 7 seconds behind someone to beating that same person. It all came step by step; I mean, I didn’t really think about it. One day, at 11 years old, I made the decision to tell my mom that I wanted to go to the French Alps, away from home, for high-level skiing. That’s when I really made a big step to reaching a high level.  

What is your favourite ski discipline? 

Downhill, but I kind of like every discipline. When I was young, it was slalom. But when I discovered speed, my connection to the faster disciplines strengthened. I found that it was a mix between some technical parts, some speed, and some jumps. It’s just everything that I like, combined. I think Super G is the most difficult discipline out of all. Super G really mixes technique, whilst at similar speeds as downhill. I think managing the technique and high speed makes it the most difficult discipline.  

How do you prepare yourself for a race?

It can even take years to prepare yourself for a race. It’s all about working on the smallest details to arrive at your goal - you must work mentally, physically, technically, and also find the perfect ski and boot setup for the day. 

What is your professional goal?

Short term, I would like to reach the top 30 in the World Cup in speed disciplines. That would be a good target for now. For sure we have big competitions, like the Olympic Games or the World Championship. But for me, since a young age, it was always about the World Cup… to reach the top 30 in the World Cup is much more valuable for us as athletes, than the Olympic games or World Championships.

What is the most significant competition you have ever participated in?

Of course, it was the Olympic Games. I did it twice, in Sochi 2014 and Pyongyang 2018. Last year I qualified, but due to complications with my federation, I missed them. The Olympics is a very special event. It’s only 1 day every 4 years, which makes it iconic. But still, for most of us high-level athletes, the World Cup is the hardest and toughest event. It’s based on your level, not on where you are from. Only the best of the best competes for the overall globe. So, for me, the World Cup is more important.

What does it mean for you to represent Romania in the biggest sports events?

I was born in France, so I do also feel French. But, from a young age, I always felt more Romanian. I remember, in school, I was watching a football game between Romania and France, and I was for Romania. My education and mentality is French, but my heart has always belonged to Romania. I spoke Romanian growing up and was raised by a Romanian Mum. 

What drives you to get up every morning and push yourself to the limit?

I feel I’m lucky - it’s easy for me because I love the work! I’m addicted to every aspect of it… I love waking up early, being in the gym for two hours and lifting heavy weights - I really like it. I never felt that I had to do something I don’t like. I’m quite lucky about that. Of course, it can be hard. I mean, you need to sacrifice some things, and it is not easy every day. For sure, some days I find it hard to get out of bed. I find, however, when it comes to that, I realise that it all feels okay again as soon as you just get up and go. 

Is there an athlete you particularly admire?

In skiing from the women's side, it’s gotta be Anna Veith. [Note: Anna Veith is an Austrian former alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medallist. She was the overall World Cup champion for the 2014 and 2015 seasons]. Since I was young, I liked every one of her aspects, especially her technique in the speed events. It was just beautiful to watch her. From the men's side, it’s Aksel Svindal [Note: Aksel Lund Svindal is a Norwegian former World Cup alpine ski racer, two-time overall World Cup champion, Olympic gold medallist, and five-time World Champion in downhill, giant slalom, and super combined]. I miss watching him compete. For me, he was a symbol of speed racing. To be honest, so are all the other Norwegians - what they do, how they train, they are really an example. 

You are a member of the Magoni ski academy. What made you choose this academy and how can you describe your experience with it? 

At the level of the World Cup and Europa cup, it’s quite hard to be from a small nation. We have a lot of obstacles. In skiing, it is not so easy to find someone who wants to help, because they [Note: coaches] don’t care, or don’t have time, or they focus on the big nations. When I met Livio [Note: Livio Magoni is one of the most successful coaches in alpine skiing today and a founder of the Magoni ski academy. To read an interview with Livio Magoni click here], it was a big surprise to see how helpful he was. I felt he really helped me in many ways, not just technically, but everything that's supposed to surround an athlete; the material, and the help you have. He is the first person I met at this level that is this generous. So, that’s why.

Since VIST cooperates with Magoni ski academy and outfits its members, how do you like VIST clothing?

Last year I had already chosen VIST, before being with Livio. So last year was my first year with VIST. I love it. I didn’t know it at all before. I had to choose fast because I had a budget quite late in the season and it was a bit of a fast decision. I remembered about VIST, but I didn’t know the clothing functionality at all. I was really surprised how good it was. When I received all the materials, it fitted perfectly. I really love it and I wouldn’t change it.