Asha Hickford is a National and International in-line speed skater from Western Australia who is only 17 years old and already a National Record Holder for both the marathon and 500m speed skating events! Her training not only involves skating, but also gym work, stability and strength training, explosive as well as endurance sessions and the patience and dedication of champion.
Just as in most sports, records in speed skating depend on conditions, courses, tracks and surfaces. However, if you are riding a bike as fast as Asha can skate, you’re certainly not going too slowly!
My name is Asha, and I am an in-line speed skater from Perth, in Western Australia. I have been skating for 6 years and have travelled all around the world to compete in the sport I love so much. I train 9-10 times a week to craft my skills and work hard to develop the fitness I need to compete in distances from 100m all the way up to 42km. I have also recently begun coaching junior athletes and enjoy seeing and helping fresh faces along their way in the sport.
WHAT MADE YOU START IN-LINE SKATING?
I used to do a lot of recreational skating at rinks and one day when looking online for information about skating, I discovered that it was an actual sport and that many people across the world competed in it at a high level.
So, I went and had a look into it and joined some training sessions and really enjoyed chasing and developing the speed I loved to experience. This was what had attracted me to the sport in the first place.
Having the opportunity to meet other skaters and more experienced athletes in the sport was a game changer too. They inspired me to become what I wanted to become and to see how far I could get in the sport.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS IN SKATING?
I have just finished school and am on a gap year. I wish to use this year to compete internationally, in Europe. My ultimate goal is to become World Champion. There are lots of little steps along the way that I must make and many competitions to perform in to get to that top spot. So, the focus is on them right now.
Later down the track, I will choose whether to specialise in the longer or shorter distances, as doing both simultaneously in a sport is quite rare. Nevertheless, for the time being, I am trying everything to gain the experience I need and to work out where my strengths lie long term.
TELL US ABOUT A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR SPORT
My training consists of a lot of skating but also a lot of cross training. We skate 4-5 times per week, and do strength training and cycling to strengthen similar muscle groups to those we use in skating. This also reduces the risk of overuse injuries or overtraining through too much repetition.
HOW DOes TRAINING AND RACING IN AUSTRALIA COMPARE TO COMPETING INTERNATIONALLY?
Skating in Australia is limited in both competition and training as we don’t have the facilities that they have elsewhere in the world, where skating is a major sport. In Perth, we are, however, fortunate enough to have a bank track, which is inside the velodrome. Whilst it isn’t up to international standards, we can still use it to train on. When training outdoors, we either use bike parks, car parks or industrial areas.
Skating is the national sport in some countries, such as Colombia, and a major sport in lots of European countries. The facilities in these countries and the level of competition are of a higher standard as a result.
It is definitely a challenge having limited facilities as well as a lack of numbers to train with here, as when we race, we race in a big pack. However, we have enough facilities to get by and I tell myself that because the facilities we use are harder to train on, we get more conditioning from them. We try our best to make the most of what we have!
HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING A COACH AND AN ATHLETE?
I never used to coach but I recently started training with a new club as my old club’s coach left. I have now taken on the responsibility of coaching for that club. I coach the juniors twice a week and love it!
It is tricky balancing being an athlete and a coach, but I really enjoy the challenge. Some of the kids I am coaching are going to nationals and there is a level of pressure that comes with coaching. On top of this, I have the added pressure that comes with my own training and competing. However, learning to handle the two only makes me more robust and I enjoy helping these young athletes prepare. I love sharing what I know with them – if I can make a difference to their sport, I am happy.
There is also the challenge of the fact that I live an hour away from where I train and coach. However, as with anything in life, when there is a will, there is a way. So, I just have to make it happen.
WHAT IS THE STRONGEST SKILL THAT YOU BRING TO YOUR sport?
I think a lot of it is my mentality towards it. I think physically, I will never be the best. However, I have always been able to push myself. When it comes to sport, I have really big goals and love it so much that, even when in other areas of my life I may not be as disciplined, in sport I am. I always know that I can turn up and push myself when it matters.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP RACING TIPS?
1. Think about each race, especially major races, as experience for building up to where you would like to get to.
2. Don’t put any pressure on yourself, especially in your first few races.
3. Also have fun and enjoy it. Realistically, if it isn’t something you enjoy, you probably won’t stick with it.
4. Be consistent and organised with your training. If you are not, you will notice any weaknesses you have when you race. Lay yourself a good foundation by putting in the groundwork.
Why do you choose Bindi?
I am very diligent with sports nutrition; I take it seriously. What you put into your body is a big part of performing well. Bindi is healthier and less artificial than most products available, which often have a lot of additives and sugar in them. Over a long period of time or a long career in sport, these can cause problems. If you want success in sport, you must look at the long-term picture.