With Sydney basking under a clear blue sky and the thermometer nudging 27 degrees, it wasn’t surprising to realise Jakara Anthony was bursting to hit the beach to thaw out . . . chill out . . . after months of competing in northern hemisphere’s big freeze where it was so cold it sometimes proved impossible to pop the bottles of celebratory champagne on the podium because they’d froze.

The New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athlete dominated the World Cup season to plunder 14 gold medals and a couple of Crystal Globes as she shredded the history books to become – male or female – the most successful moguls World Cup skier of all time.

And even though the inviting foam-capped waves of the Pacific Ocean were beckoning, the 25-year-old took her time to reveal that, due to a relentless pursuit of excellence, her thoughts were still firmly fixed on the ski fields in Europe and North America.

While Anthony insisted she’s allowed herself to celebrate her victories, she and her coaches Peter McNiel and Kate Blamey have already started the deep dive analysis of season 2023/24 which, in terms of utter dominance, is on a par with the 974 runs Sir Donald Bradman hammered against England during the 1930 Ashes series and the 13 goals Frenchman Just Fontaine nailed at the 1958 World Cup.

“I’ll definitely celebrate the season,” said Anthony with a smile that indicated a feeling of satisfaction. “But there are some things I’d like to improve on for the future, and we’ve already started discussing those.

“We’re having a good look at the season – what went well? What we want to continue with? What could we change? What we want to do a little better? and to also consider the new things we could be trying to give us that edge . . . the opportunity to go one better. We’ll be looking at all of that very closely.”

Anthony’s incredible campaign has added extra lustre to her status in world sport. However, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic gold medallist doesn’t need reminding that a byproduct of her dominance is she’ll now be viewed an even bigger target by her rivals.

By addressing that, it’s clear the same instincts that allow Anthony to make split second decisions on the fly as she negates bumps on a piste (a ski run on compacted snow) while travelling at approximately 145 km/h also appreciate that a moving target is much harder for a marksman to hit than one that sits still.

“I’ve had a target on my back for a little while now,” she said. “I got it after winning the gold in Beijing and especially now, after having the most dominant season in moguls’ history.

“So, yes, I definitely do have a target on my back. That US women’s team is so, so strong and we’ll see some other heavy hitters coming through the ranks. All that means is I can’t back off now.

“We still have a lot of things we want to improve on . . .  my turns . . . my jumping . . . my speed. Though, I’m really lucky I’m going out there every day and focusing on improving those elements and not [worrying] so much about results.

“I’m looking to that momentum over the next couple of years heading into the Milano-Cortina [2026 Winter Olympic Games].”

While the treasures Anthony received for her winter of extreme content are certainly prized, she explained that being welded to top spot on the podium had galvanised within her a trait that will be an invaluable asset during the challenges ahead.

“The season has given me a lot more self-belief in myself,” she said. “I’ve learnt to harness that when I go into competition and into training. I back myself a lot more, and I think it’s solidified how much – over time – the hard work makes an impact.

“I couldn’t change overnight all of the things I needed to change to give myself the opportunity to achieve those results. It was me [and my coaches] Pete and Kate putting in the work over many, many years. It’s the continuity of it . . .  the consistency . . . that has made it all very possible.”

And Anthony articulated why self-belief is so crucial in a sport that doesn’t discriminate when it doles out injuries and other pains to its athletes.

“Self-belief is so, so important,” Anthony said after a training session at NSWIS HQ under Strength and Conditioning Provider Janina Strauts (pictured below). “To back yourself – to trust yourself – and know you’re ready to do the things you’re doing is very important.

“We’re in an extreme sport where there are potentially serious consequences to what you’re doing. But as soon as that doubt creeps into your mind that’s when things can start to go wrong, and you can literally go downhill and seriously risk injury [which means] losing training time or even not training at all.

“My self-belief comes from knowing I’ve done the work and I’ve done everything in my power.  I also know my team around me has as well. They work to give me every opportunity to go out and ski the way I want to ski. Knowing I’m competent and ready to do things is better than just feeling confident.

“Just before I launch off, I run through the things I need to do on each course . . .  they’re different everywhere we go. On any particular day I might be struggling with one thing more than the other, so while I run through that in my head, I make a point of reminding myself just before I go these things: ‘I’ve got this; I’m capable; I’m ready; I’ve got the skills, and I’ve done it a million times before’.

“I say all of those things just to re-enforce my self-belief.”

Coach McNiel, who Anthony openly describes as the greatest influence on her career, believes three keys helped the wonder from Down Under to enjoy a season that no-one could ever have anticipated.

“The effort, the commitment and the consistency by Jakara is very high end,” he said. “She really doesn’t leave much on the table when it comes to the overall process of trying to perfect her craft.

“She really is a bit of a perfectionist who isn’t happy to sit still on something – and she never feels near enough is good enough. She wants to consume mastery of her sport.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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