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Olympian leads charge at military ski contest in Italian Alps

SOUTH TYROL, Italy - Multinational troops from the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) in Gloucester have been competing at the Italian army’s military ski competition in the Alps – boosted by the presence of a double Olympic and world champion.

Major Heather Stanning, who twice won Olympic gold – for rowing – now serves as a Royal Artillery staff officer within the NATO headquarters in the southwest of England. She is a member of the ARRC ski team attending the ‘CaSTA 2019’ championships held at San Candido in South Tyrol.

Speaking ahead of her ‘Sci alpino’ (alpine skiing) event, Heather said: "I wasn’t a cross country skier in the past and my background is rowing. But it’s an endurance race really, and I’ll give it a good go.”

She is one of three athletes from the ARRC to enter the night-time race, where competitors complete two laps of the mountain course with its 400 metres uphill climb followed by a ‘red run’ downhill slope, while carrying weight and lit only by head torch.

Despite a highly credible individual 4th place against some of NATO’s best athletes, she joked: "I certainly won’t be entering the Winter Olympics in this sport.”


The remainder of the week-long competition saw the ARRC’s team enjoy near-perfect racing conditions in the stunning, but unforgiving terrain of the Italian Alps.

They have been competing against their NATO counterparts, including ‘Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum’ and ‘NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - Italy’, for the coveted ‘Trofeo Dell’Amicizia’ (Friendship Trophy).

And by the end of the week, the UK-based ARRC was only narrowly pushed into second place by the specialists from Slovenia’s ‘Mountain Warfare Centre of Excellence’.

Lieutenant Colonel Stefano Saccocci, an Italian carabinieri police officer working at the ARRC, was pleased with his team’s achievements. He explained: "Our aim was to come here and be competitive.

"We’ve been invited to enter a team here for the past two decades – and this year has been a great success for us.”

Story by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office

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