Alessandra Cicalese didn’t believe the news. She had just been selected to compete for the Team Portugal alpine ski team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
“I was in complete shock. I started crying. The Olympics are the dream pinnacle for a competitive athlete,” says Alessandra, who has been skiing since she was three years old, and racing since she was four.
It all started when Alessandra’s father, Piero, emailed the Winter Sports Federation of Portugal to ask if his daughter would be considered to race for the Portuguese alpine ski team during upcoming 2021-22 international events. The Federation responded back asking for race results and photos before considering Alessandra for the national team.
“Being so young, I didn’t expect to be chosen to represent my home country. I’m sure it will hit me once I’m actually competing at the Games,” she says. Alessandra will be 16 next year – the minimum age to be able to compete in ski racing at the Olympics. She will be one of only two women that will be racing for Portugal in Beijing.
Alessandra was born in Houston, Texas and has lived in Calgary for 14 years. Her mom is of Portuguese descent and the Cicalese family travels to Portugal once a year to visit relatives. Rather than making just a summer trip to Portugal this year, the Cicalese family will be moving to Italy in June so that Alessandra can participate in more international ski competitions in preparation for the 24th Olympic Winter Games.
“Next year, I’ll be competing in International Ski Federation events racing against different teams from all over the world,” she explains.
Alessandra has been at Edge School for four years, and she was originally part of the soccer academy when she started in Grade 7. She says that playing soccer translated well to skiing, noticing improved cardio and increased stamina when competing in alpine races.
With the upcoming move to Italy, Alessandra has shifted her focus more to skiing specific training before next year’s Olympics in February. “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I stay at home to work out for about an hour, come to school afterwards for class and go to Canada Olympic Park to train after school,” says the Grade 10 student-athlete.
It’s this type of flexibility that Alessandra appreciates most about Edge School. “In the past, I’ve missed a couple of weeks of school at a time when I am away at competitions,” she says. “Edge makes it easy for me to catch up on what I’ve missed in the classroom, and I never feel too overwhelmed or stressed because my teachers are so accommodating with my schedule.”
Although Alessandra is nervous to move overseas, she is excited for a new lifestyle and knows that this is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I always wanted to compete in a World Cup or the Olympics,” she says. “Now that it’s actually happening, I can’t believe it.”