Tackling sleep deprivation by night and Olympic training by day, Aleisha Cline is probably the world's fastest mom on skis.
Cline, 39, came out of retirement last year to try for the 2010 Olympics and finds competing overseas with the national ski-cross team is "almost a holiday" compared to parenting a preschooler and toddler who tends to wake for milk at 4 a.m.
"When we go away, the coaches are like, 'It's going to be a long trip and you're going to be tired when you're done,' " Cline said. "And I'm like, 'I get to go away and sleep through the night?' And by the time we're done the trip I feel like a rock."
Cline is one of the early favourites heading into the 2010 Olympic competition, having finished first at the World Cup stop at Cypress Mountain, B.C. -- the Olympic venue -- last year. Between 2002 and 2004, Cline had 16 international wins. She also won four gold medals at the X-Games before retiring to start a family.
But the chance to compete at the Olympics has brought her back. This week Cline was one of 13 Canadian athletes named to Canada's Ski Cross World Cup team, from which selections will be made later this season as to who will race at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Ski cross is the newest -- and, they say, the coolest -- winter Olympic sport. (It's been called roller derby on skis.) The sport pits four to six athletes against each other as they race down a technically demanding course that features rollers, jumps and turns. Athletes navigate the course at speeds upwards of 70 km/h in a single elimination format. The fastest two skiers to complete the course advance to the next round.
"Our goal is to showcase ski cross as the coolest winter Olympic sport in Canada," said Cam Bailey, president, Canada Ski Cross.
"Winning an Olympic medal at this venue is an extremely powerful tool for us to give the sport the credibility it needs to build a solid foundation to develop the next generation of athletes, and engage future partners from corporate Canada."
Canadian ski-cross athletes have captured medals at World Championships, World Cups and X-Games since the national team took to the international circuit two years ago. That's when Cline initially planned to come back, until it was postponed by her second pregnancy with mountain biker husband, Shaums March.
The family lives in Squamish, B.C. Son Isaac is three and a half, and daughter Asia Marie is 16 months. They run a mountain bike camp and coaching business -- Mad March Racing. When Cline is away for more than a few days, her mother, super-grandma Kris Cline, makes the seven-hour trip from Osoyoos, B.C., to babysit for weeks at a time.
"I'm so grateful to my mom, she's awesome," said Cline. "This is an opportunity that I just can't pass up, win lose or draw. Anything can happen in ski cross, but I know what I'm capable of."
Canada's ski-cross athletes will kick off the 2009-10 World Cup season Dec. 21-22 in San Candido, Italy. That means Cline will probably spend Christmas in Europe on her own.
"We might just have Christmas on the 13th of December and have the tree and the presents and the whole bit. They won't know any different," Cline said. "I probably sound really brave but I'm really sad. (But) it's a short-lived time. This isn't forever. I really hope to reach women and inspire them that you can't forget about you, just because you have kids. The support is critical."