Local Story

Winter Olympians from the Cairngorms

The eagerly awaited winter Olympics of 2022 in Beijing have finally arrived and we can now enjoy the high sporting drama in China.

Back here in the Cairngorms National Park we have an amazing history of Olympic success.  With a population of just over 18,000, we can boast a  higher percentage of home-grown Olympians per head of population than anywhere else in the UK. No less than eighteen Winter Olympic athletes have  been born, brought up and trained here and have gone on to represent their country in the Olympic Games. An achievement by any standard!

We are incredibly proud of these athletes and here we take a look at our Winter Olympians past and present!

Eve Muirhead

Curling. Beijing 2022, Pyeongchang, South Korea 2018, Sochi, Russia 2014, Vancouver, Canada 2010.

Eve is from Blair Atholl in the South of the Cairngorms. Congratulations to Eve and her team mates who won a gold medal at Beijing! She also won a bronze medal in Sochi as part of team GB where she became the youngest ever skip, male or female, to win an Olympic medal.  Her  father was also an international curler, who competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics, where curling was a demonstration sport.

Thomas and Glen Muirhead

Curling. Pyeongchang, South Korea 2018.

Thomas and Glen from Blair Atholl made their Olympic debut at Pyeongchang for Team GB’s men’s curling team. They combined their training regime with daily duties on their farm near Crieff.

Lesley McKenna

Snowboarding. Salt Lake City, USA 2002, Torino, Italy 2006 and Vancouver, Canada 2010.

Lesley grew up in Aviemore skiing on Cairngorm. During her career travelling the world as a snowboard halfpipe athlete she won two halfpipe World Cups, and had 6 World Cup podium finishes as well as a bronze medal in the FIS overall halfpipe rankings.   She also won over 20 British Championship titles in halfpipe, Big Air, Slopestyle and BoarderX as well as co-producing three international all girl snowboard films for Chunkyknit Productions. 

Lesley currently manages the GB Park and Pipe team where she works with the coaches to help the next generation of freestyle ski and snowboard athletes towards Olympic success.

Alain Baxter

Alpine Skiing – Nagano, Japan 1998- Salt Lake City USA 2002 and Torino, Italy 2006

Alain started his skiing career with the Cairngorm Ski Club and worked his way up into the Scottish and then joined the British Ski Team in 1991. He was selected for Team GB in 1998 to compete in the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan alongside other local boys Andrew Freshwater and the Dryburgh brothers. Alain was again part of the British team in 2002 in Salt Lake City where he famously won a bronze medal in the Slalom, later to lose it due to using a nasal spray before competition. He was eventually cleared of contravening IOC rules but his medal remained with the competitor who came 4th. In 2006 he represented his country once again in Torino, Italy where finished 16th in the Slalom event.

Following his retiral from ski racing Alain was runner up and winner of BBC’s Superstars event. Following his success the Scottish Institute of Sport asked him if he would be interested in trying out for the team sprint event in track cycling.  His power tests were at Olympic programme level and he was only 7/10ths off qualifying for Deli Commonwealth games. In 2015 Alain was invited to compete at Redbull Crashed Ice, winning all heats on the flat ice. In Ireland, Edmonton he was fastest rookie in first ever event and competed during the winter 16/17 season.

Noel Baxter

Alpine Skiing.  Salt Lake City, USA 2002 and Torino, Italy 2006.

Noel also started his career with the Cairngorm Ski Club and progressed to Scottish then British team level. Noel attended a Youth camp at Nagano during the Olympics in 1998. He also was able to support his brother and the Dryburgh boys who were curling. Noel was then selected for his first Olympics in Salt Lake City. He was 20th in the slalom. Following lots of good results over the next few years he was again selected for Team GB to compete in Torino Italy where he was 14th in the Combined Slalom and Downhill event.  It was the best result of his career to date.

In 2012 Noel retired and spent time coaching at Killington Mountain School in Vermont. He spent 2014 and 2015 coaching the Spanish WC Men’s speed team. He will travel to Beijing this year as coach for Alex Tilley,  Team GB skier.

Mike Dixon

Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon. 6 Olympic Games from 1984 – 2002.
winter olympians from the Cairngorms

After joining the Army at 17 Mike begun his Olympic journey. His first day on skis was aged 19 and 2 years later in Sarajevo he represented Team GB in cross country skiing placing 60th in the 15 km and 14th in the 4x10km relay. He then switched to Biathlon for the rest of his career competing in his first event in 1987, the same year he moved to the Cairngorms as it was the prefect training ground.

In 1988 he represented Team GB in biathlon coming 21st in the 10 km sprint, 13th in the 20 km, and 13th in the 4 x 7.5 km relay. At the Albertville 1992 Olympics he came 60th in the 10 km sprint, 12th in the 20 km, and 18th in the 4 x 7.5 km relay.  In the 20km race, he was one of only three competitors (including gold medallist Yevgeniy Redkin) not to miss any targets. In Lillehammer in 1994 illness affected his performance with 54th place in the 20km. He was the British flag bearer in Norway and again in Japan and Salt Lake City. In 1998 he placed 47th in the 10km sprint and 33rd in the 20km. Mike’s final Olympics were Salt Lake City in 2002 where he came 74th in the 10 km sprint, 79th in the 20 km, and 19th in the 4 x 7.5 km relay.

Mike now works as a commentator for Eurosport and as head coach of Cairngorm Biathlon & Nordic Ski Club. He is also well know for his motivational speaking and is an expert in self-motivation and personal fitness.

Andrew Freshwater

Alpine Skiing. Nagano, Japan 1998.
Andrew Freshwater

Andrew was brought up at Loch Insh, his family watersports centre near Kincraig. Andrew’s career also started with the Cairngorm Ski Club and by the time he was 18 he was touring Europe in an old VW van earning FIS points and gaining valuable race experience. After time in the American resort of Vail he was selected for the British Alpine Team alongside Graham and Martin Bell. In 1998 he had his first selection for the Olympic Games in Nagano. Unfortunately for Andrew he made a crucial mistake and came out at the same corner as the “Hermanator” Hermann Maier.

Andrew is now a member of the Daily Mail ski testing team and is one of the Eurosport Commentary team bringing news of the present generation of ski racing. He splits his time between Kincraig in the summer and France in the winter working as a private instructor in many sports including sailing, powerboating and skiing. He is a director of Loch Insh Watersports Centre.

Douglas Dryburgh

Curling. Nagano, Japan 1998.
winter olympians from the Cairngorms

Douglas began his curling career on the ice rink in Aviemore. He was very successful, a Scottish and then World Junior Champion. He qualified for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and skipped team GB where they finished 7th.

He retired as a Wing Commander from the RAF in 2006 and now works with as a Director for the NHS Blood and Transplant Department in Oxford.

James Dryburgh

Curling. Nagano, Japan 1998.

James followed his older brother onto the ice at Aviemore too. At 15 he was the youngest ever Scottish and World Junior Champion. After lots of success including Scottish Schools Champions representing Kingussie High School, he was selected for the British Curling team to compete with his brother in Nagano.

James moved to Stockholm in 2000 and now has citizenship there. He continues to work within curling and coached the Danish National Men’s Team for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. He is now a P.E teacher.

Sean Langmuir

Alpine Skiing. Albertville, France 1992.
winter olympians from the Cairngorms

Sean was born in Grantown on Spey and spent his early years skiing on Cairngorm Mountain while his father was the principal of Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Centre. Under the direction of Hans Kuwall, a legendary Austrian born instructor and one-time BASI director of training he went on to win many regional and national titles. He was a member of the British team from 1988 and was selected for the British team in 1992 for the Albertville games. He was placed 28th in Slalom and 21st in the combined events.

After breaking his back competiting at the age of 25 Sean retired from racing and started coaching founding ski racing academies in New Zealand which are still going strong today. He coached the British Women’s Team in 1998-99 and the Canadian Men’s Team in 2000-2001. Sean now lives in Nethy Bridge and runs ATC, a ski racing organisation for talented young British ski racers and aspiring future Olympians.

Ingrid Grant

Alpine Skiing. Calgary, Canada 1988.
Ingrid Grant

Ingrid was born in Haddington and moved to Aviemore at the age of four.  Ingrid started her ski career with Ski School D’Ecosse and the Cairngorm Ski Club. When she was 12 Ingrid was selected to compete in her first downhill event in Norway. While still in High School Ingrid was selected for the British Junior Ski Team training and racing abroad. On leaving school the British team specialising in Downhill and Super G on the FIS Europa Cup and World Cup circuits. In 1988 she was selected to represent Team GB at the Calgary Olympic Games.

Ingrid set up Alvie Stables in 1995 which she continues to run successfully today.

Ewan Cameron Mackenzie

Nordic Skiing. Calgary, Canada 1988.
Calgary Winter Olympics Jerry Woody Flickr

Ewan spent his childhood holidays with Mikel Utsie at Glenmore herding reindeer all over the Cairngorms. He started his sporting career in 1980 with the Cairngorm Cycling Club where he became a top North of Scotland cyclist in time trial events. Ewan was then persuaded to take up Cross Country Skiing during the winter by Tim Walker at Glenmore Lodge. In 1984 he travelled to Norway for race training and his career kicked off from there. In 1985 he was invited to join the British Team and race in World Cup events in the Alps. In 1987 he attained the best ever time for a member of the British Team when he competed in the World Championship 50km event. In 1998 Ewan was part of Team GB in Canada competing in the team 4 x 10km relay event, the 30km and the 50km individual events.

Ewan now lives in British Columbia running his own horticultural business and still enjoys skiing and cycling.

Louise Mhairi Catriona Mackenzie

Nordic Skiing. Calgary, Canada 1988.

Louise was born in Grantown on Spey and at the age of 3 began competing in ice skating, then becoming Scottish Swimming Champion and then Scottish Triathlon Champion.  Louise was a member of Team GB at the Calgary Games in 1988 competing in the Cross Country Ski 5 km 10 km and 20 km races, qualifying through World Cup races in Winter 1987/88.

Louise now lives in Germany.

Roddy Langmuir

Alpine Skiing. Lake Placid, USA 1980.
winter olympians from the Cairngorms

Roddy was brought up in the Cairngorms where his father was the principal of Glenmore Lodge. His career started off on Cairngorm with a race training group led by Karl Fuchs. Winning many regional and national competitions he joined the British Alpine team in 1978 and was selected to travel to Lake Placid for the 1980 Games to compete in Slalom and Giant Slalom.

Roddy then moved into coaching while studying architecture. He was head coach of the British Junior Team from 1983-1985. Roddy joined Edward Cullinan architects in 1987 and won an award in 1994 for the design of his father’s house at Avielochan near Aviemore. Roddy lives in London and currently chairs design reviews for Architecture and Design Scotland and was recently able to return to the Spey Valley to judge the Cairngorm National Park Design Awards.

Peter Fuchs

Alpine Skiing. Innsbruck, Austria 1976.
Peter Fuchs

At the age of 2 Peter started skiing and spent a lot of time with ski classes at the Slochd, the Lecht and Cairngorm. He was part of the Struan skiing family and developed the same unique style, snow and mountain sense as his Father, Karl. After coming second in the visitor races, racing was his hobby. He trained abroad with the Kandahar Club and in the Cairngorms with Austrian trainers brought over by his father Karl to work in his ski school. Just before his 16th birthday Peter left to compete on the European circuit collecting FIS points with his friends Konrad Bartelski and Willy Bailey. They were named the “three musketeers”. Peter was part of Team GB in Innsbruck in 1976.  Peter won the British Championships then retired from racing due to injury and became a trainer for the Scottish Espoires and then the British Girls Team.

Peter passed all his BASI exams and took up freestyle skiing and went to Japan with a BASI demonstration team. Sadly Peter was killed in a car accident on his way back to Carrbridge at just 24 years of age. A tragedy for his family and friends.  Scottish Skiing also lost a great personality and a great ambassador for Snowsports.

Alan Stewart

Alpine Skiing. Innsbruck, Austria 1976 & Lake Placid USA 1980.
winter olympians from the Cairngorms

Alan started skiing at the age of 9 with his Father and quickly progressed through the Scottish racing scene to the British Team. He competed in the Olympics in Innsbruck and Lake Placid and won a number of FIS races. He won a number of FIS races with some notable results, including 6th in the combined of the ’78 world Championships although he’s the first to admit that it was somewhat easier then compared to now. Alan went on to coach the British team for many years and then more locally the Cairngorm Ski Club with his wife who is also an Olympic skier. Alan is now a financial advisor.

Ana Stewart

Alpine Skiing. Lake Placid, USA 1980.

Ana grew up in Southern Spain and started skiing aged 5, As a member of the senior Spanish ski team she became Spanish Champion and competed in the 1980 Olypics in Lake Placid (with her future husband Alan). She moved to Scotland, married Alan and coached the Scottish team and then the Cairngorm Ski Club, some of whom later became Olympians themselves such as Alain Baxter, Lesley McKenna and Andrew Freshwater.
She qualified as a nurse working locally in the Cairngorms.

Iain Finlayson

Alpine Skiing. Sapporo, Japan 1972.

Iain’s skiing career started at Glencoe aged 5. When he was 7 he moved to Aviemore. In 1972 he represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Iain’s Father, Frith Finlayson ran the Ski School D’Ecosse and was the trainer for young locals in the Cairngorm Junior Race Training Group. Iain assisted his Father running the ski school. He then moved to Les Deux Alpes to run a chalet and teach skiing. Sadly Iain suffered a heart attack after skiing one day and very tragically died.

You can catch up with all the Olympics action on their website: https://www.olympic.org/ 

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