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Sport, Health & Wellbeing

Writing her own story: Mia Chawner

There aren’t many places in the world less conducive to pursuing a professional snowsports career than Australia.

Our snow season is short, and snowfields are limited and geographically condensed within the country.

It’s a problem snowboarder Mia Chawner knows all too well, and it’s why she spends much of the year based in the United States, where access is far easier.

Snowboarding also makes for an extremely expensive hobby, so it’s only fitting that Mia was the recipient of an Eldon and Anne Foote Elite Athlete Scholarship, to help her balance her studies in a Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing) at the University of Canberra with the financial and time commitments of her sport.

Mia, who is based in Cooma, says some of the main expenses of her sport include travel and insurance.

“I do alpine snowboarding, and there aren’t many options available for training in Australia; there are no coaches or programs here – so it’s solely overseas that I can access those things,” she says.

“I have a coach and a team over in the US, so it’s the expenses of getting over there, the training, and then the competitions as well, because even when you’re overseas, you still have to travel to get to them.”

Because of the nature of her sport, another large cost for Mia is insurance that will cover her while training and competing.

Previously receiving insurance quotes of almost $10,000 for only a few months, Mia says much of her scholarship funds will go towards these insurance costs, along with program and travel costs.

Specialising in the Parallel Giant Slalom and Parallel Slalom events Mia has represented Australia on a number of occasions, including at the 2023 World University Games in Lake Placid, New York in January.

Mia was one of only two snowboarders representing Australia in the competition.

“The World University Games was a really good experience. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, which was nice,” Mia says.

“I came 21st in Parallel Giant Slalom and for Parallel Slalom I came 23rd, and for me those are actually pretty good results – these are against some of the best people in the world.”

Completing her studies while training and travelling overseas might seem like a huge feat, but Mia handles it with ease. A large portion of her training camps in the US fall into the summer break at UC, while Australia’s winter season falls during Winter Term.

She spends December to March in Colorado, completing the first few weeks of Semester One remotely – a provision she receives as a result of being recognised in UC’s Elite Athlete Program.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act over there, trying to study, compete and train at the same time,” Mia says – but it’s something that will be worth it when she competes her degree.

“I’ve always really enjoyed writing and telling stories, and I just find it really interesting to be able to convey who you are, and the stories that you want to tell, through writing,” she says.

“I’m really passionate about it, and I hope that one day I can be an author. I know that it will be really hard to do, but if I get there, that would be fantastic.”

Words by Elly Mackay, sporting photos supplied and portraits by Tyler Cherry.

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