MILLIE BONGIORNO is an Australian Alpine Snowboard Racer who is about to end life as a teenager (happy birthday for next week) and become a young twenty-something on the world snowboarding stage. She competes in the Alpine Events: Slalom, Giant Slalom, Parallel Slalom and Parallel Giant Slalom and has a world of competition and white stuff in front of her. Alpine Snowboarding isn’t one of the rockstar snowboarding disciplines like Big Air, Pipe or Slopestyle. It gets less coverage and sponsorship but deserves it! It is about speed and precision. Competitors attempt to obtain the fastest time down a course. Snowboard racing can be done against the clock, or by two or more competitors racing in a head-to-head format.
Millie is currently based at Steamboat Springs in Colorado U.S.A. where is living, breathing and sleeping everything Alpine Snowboarding in the hopes of increasing her ranking enough to represent Australia in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. We wish her all the best in her training and prep and send abundant thanks for taking the time out to talk to Snowboard.com.
Shameless segue: Boardercross would be an extension of Alpine boarding and is between four or six people in the race. We have interviews with boardercross champs Belle Brockhoff and Jarryd Hughes you may want to check out.
THE MILLIE BONGIORNO INTERVIEW
A lot of people underestimate how hard the training for the winter Olympics is, can you tell us about your current training regime? Have you met the selection criteria so far and are you on track for a place? Has Australia competed in Olympic snowboard slalom before?
I have known I wanted to compete at an Olympic Games since I was about 12 years old, it just took me a little while to figure out for which sport I wanted to compete in! When I was about 16 years old, I took up alpine snowboarding, falling in love instantly and knowing that was what I wanted to do. I moved to beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA, during the Northern Winter, once I finished high school, to train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for 6 months out of the year. Our routine during this time includes 5 days training gates on snow and 3 or more days spent in the gym for anywhere between 45minutes to 2hours.
During the Southern Winter I am at the gym training with Snow Performance for 6 days each week for close to an hour or 2hours each session. During July and August, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to train on snow at El Colorado in Chile for 3 weeks straight; thanks to the Canadian National Team for including me.
I have known I wanted to compete at an Olympic Games since I was about 12 years old
I arrived back in Steamboat Springs in late October and jumped straight into a two-week training camp at Copper Mountain. Now we are settling back into the old routine and getting set for a huge winter. I have not met all the criteria for the Olympics yet so will be heading off to Europe in December to compete in all the World Cup events in the lead up to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I am aiming for individual top 20 results at these events to place myself in the overall top 30 in the World, currently I am sitting in 45th and definitely feeling up to the challenge.
In the past, we had Johanna Shaw representing Australia at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. Her career was super impressive as she fought back from injury whenever it knocked her back and was ranked in the top 10 in the World. She has been an integral part in my development, giving me all the knowledge she has to offer including about equipment, training facilities and technique. She was the one who originally told me I needed to train in Steamboat! I can’t thank her enough for her support. I look up to her a lot and hope I can represent Australia in the same way she did.
Where is your home snow base and how often do you get to train on snow
I grew up learning how to ski when I was 3 years old at Mt Hotham along with my three older brothers, two of which are snowboarders and one a retired ski racer. As we grew more enthusiastic about racing we moved to Mt Buller, being closer to home. This is where I first learnt how to snowboard, at the age of 8, and absolutely fell in love with it. During my schooling years I would be on snow every weekend and throughout the school holidays. Now I get to chase winter around the globe and can spend close to 8 months training on snow each year!
Further to that…..what’s your favourite mountain of all time and why?
I love basically anywhere in Italy, nothing better than getting to do the thing I love and then backing it up with yummy pizza and pasta! The people are always extremely friendly here, and get a real kick out of my last name. I especially love the Dolomites, which are almost too picture perfect to be real. Standing on top of these ranges never fails to remind me how empowering nature can be and not to take any of it for granted.
In saying that, I have been absolutely in love with Steamboat ever since I moved here in 2015. They say there is a thing called the Yampa Valley Curse in which people who visit Steamboat, and the surrounding areas, can never leave. I definitely believe in this as I feel a strong sense of withdrawal every time I leave. The people here are exceptional and become like family, making it almost too easy moving in and being away from home for 6 months each year.
How do you get psyched and stay pumped before a race/event?
Nerves are a big thing for me and routine is vital. No matter what sort of race it is I will always have adrenaline firing through me without needing much to get me psyched. I enjoy listening to music on my way to a competition and whilst I do some dynamic stretches to get me warmed up. After that I have a specific routine, such as my right boot must go on first and that my helmet goes on before my back brace. From then on in, everything is in my head and my self-talk is huge at getting me amped up, I don’t need much else because my body is already shaking with energy and ready to go.
Who are your current on-snow inspirations? Who are your competition BFFs?
I especially look up to Czech rider, Ester Ledecka, who is currently ranked number 1 in the world for Alpine Snowboarding and in the top 50 in the world for Alpine Skiing. I think her dedication and commitment to both sports is astounding and definitely something I can take note on. Also, my friend and mentor Belle Brockhoff has been a huge support and motivator for me. She had me take this dream of mine and begin to make it a reality when I only just realised it was what I wanted to do. She is a wealth of knowledge and I know she always has my back if I ever need it.
Who are your biggest influences outside of snowboarding?
Singer P!nk, I have looked up to since I was about 10 years old. She has inspiring athletic abilities, always takes a stand and has a hell of a voice. Further to that, my brothers have always been big influences for me; every sport they competed in I wanted to compete in, and finally I can say I am better at one of those sports than they are! Them and my parents are all fitness junkies and keep me motivated, no matter what time of year, to be the strongest and fittest I possibly can in order to better my snowboarding.
What made you become a slalom boarder? Are there any other disciplines you like to dabble in?
Originally, I just started snowboarding to fill in a school snowsports team when I was 8. I was awful and finished my first snowboard race in about 2 minutes from doing falling leaf the entire way. Progressing from there when I was about 16, Mt Buller Race Club handed me an alpine snowboard and said “you should try this”. I haven’t ever looked back since. I always think I would love to try ski jumping but I know I’m too much of a scaredy cat that if the opportunity came up I would be frozen to the chair at the top.
Who are the competitors to beat for 2018?
The 15 people between me and number 30! Mostly the European riders, I am aware of the girl who is currently in 30th and so my aim is to beat her. She is an Italian rider, same age as me, and a very strong snowboarder. Beat her and it’s hello PyeongChang!
What have you learned this last year? Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’ve especially noticed how important off snow training is. Before last season my gym knowledge was pretty terrible and I am so lucky to have worked so intensely with my strength and conditioning coach, Rhys Artridge, who has taught me how vital strength training is and the effects it will have on my snowboarding. I can definitely feel and see the difference already with my recovery time decreasing and the amount of power I can put through the board increasing.
In ten years I want to definitely still be riding, hopefully with three Olympic games under my belt and ranked in the top 3 for alpine snowboarding and still going strong!
What do you do for fun off the slopes at home and while travelling?
Firslty, reading, my favourite at the moment being the Steig Larson books, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series. I love watching movies, having wanted to be a director myself. I am always excited by movie nights with friends or binge watching my favourite TV show, Offspring, for the 7th time in a row. Going for hikes or long walks never fails to clear my head and help me relax. A friend, a dog, and a long hike are an instant remedy for me.
What’s your worst “oh shit” moment?
Just recently in September, my family and I went heliskiing in The Andes in Chile. Our guide told us on one of our first runs of the day to just feel out the snow before doing anything too crazy. I went first, tested the snow for about three turns and, of course, got a little too cocky. So, I decided to nail out a big toe side turn. Turns out I am a pretty terrible powder snowboarder and dug my nose straight into the snow, flipping myself over the handlebars. I remember my first thought being exactly “oh shit”. Next thing I know I am cartwheeling about 50metres down this huge mountain with no intention of stopping. If you don’t know what Tomahawking is I suggest you watch a YouTube video and you will see exactly what I did.
Favourite movie of all time? And Snowboard movie?
Favourite movie has to be Hot Rod, most hilarious and quotable movie of all time! And favourite snowboard movie is probably Art of Flight.
Favourite cheat meal? And favourite chocolate?
Always love a classic American style burger, fries and a milkshake. Favourite chocolate is Double Coated Tim Tams of course!
In closing what advice would you give to little baby boarders and mini shredders who want to be like you in the future?
If you have a passion for something, go for it, no matter how many times you get told no, even if it is from your parents. Show them your drive for the sport and how much it means to you. Take matters into your own hands, get out on snow as much as you can and ask questions to absolutely anyone and everyone, the more you know the stronger your snowboarding will be. Always have fun with it though, don’t get too serious, ride with friends and laugh when you fall because cartwheeling down a mountain is probably one of the most impressive things I’ve ever done…
HOT OR NOT – WHAT’S 5 HOT THINGS AT THE MOMENT AND FIVE NOT SO HOT THINGS?
HOT – Australia saying yes to marriage equality!!, having foreigners taste Vegemite, snowboarding in all its forms, travelling the world, every dog in the entire world.
NOT – Avocado, homophobia, animal hunting, people stealing my Tim Tams
Full Name: Millie Bongiorno aka Millie Vanillie
Discipline: Alpine Snowboard Racing
Birth place: Melbourne, Australia
Home town: Melbourne, Australia when not gallivanting around the world being a snowboard speedster
Coach: Thedo Remmelink
Sponsors: Flylow Gear
** All pictures supplied by Millie Bongiorno or sourced online – if they require credit or removal please email email@example.com **