A WOMAN who came within touching distance of becoming a professional skier but was unable to support her dream financially has come back to the sport – but without the snow.

Steph Cook, 27, from Skeeby, near Richmond, has won her first national roller-ski championship – the summertime equivalent of cross country skiing, which Miss Cook had previously excelled at while studying in Finland.

When she was 17 she moved to Finland to go to a school which allowed her to train with other young athletes, and despite not knowing a word of Finnish she completed her Baccalaureate exams while also undergoing intensive ski training.

But the financial pressures of maintaining a lifestyle of training to get to the top of her game while living abroad meant she was unable to continue, despite being close to making Team GB.

On several occasions she got very close to being selected, but pressures from school and training eventually got too much.

Miss Cook moved back to the UK and worked as a fitness instructor while taking part in ski competitions when she could, but took up roller-skiing so she can practice at home and found she enjoyed it just as much as real skiing.

She said: “The competition I won last week was a series made up of ten races. You had to compete in six of the races, which take place around the country, and I got the most points overall so I won.

“On Sunday I won my first roller-ski national race too, I had come second a couple of times but that win brought my points up to make me the overall winner.”

She said roller-skiing is now her focus and has moved to Berkshire to be closer to better facilities and training grounds.

“In May this year I decided to move down here and life has changed a lot. I do private roller-ski lessons and personal training and spend as much time I can training, the facilities are much better and much closer than when I was in North Yorkshire, but I am still a member of the Yorkshire Dales Ski Club so that is who I compete for," she said.

"I still come to Richmond one weekend a month to work with my personal training clients.

“You can train anywhere really – there was one event that started at the bottom of the Cairngorm mountains ski road and you had to race to the top, which was extremely tough – and there seems to be a lot of people taking part who are keeping up on their ski training,” she said. “But it also a sport in its own right, and now I want to concentrate on training for next year, to be faster and stronger, and to win every race in the series.”