The Student News Site of Taipei American School




My secret life: Birthe Ong Cheng


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Taking your exams unprepared is not YOLO, but skiing down a mountain without even learning how to brake safely first is. And that is exactly what Birthe Ong C. did when she was “just too dumb to know fear.”
“When people ask me how I learned to ski, well, first of all, it’s hard not to ski if you lived in an almost polar region like Canada but also, how would I remember? For God’s sake, do you remember how you learned to walk?” she asks.
Starting from late November all the way to mid-January next year, Birthe will be overseas, attending a series of FIS (International Ski Federation) point races and competitions. She will miss school and even semester exams, but if she gains enough FIS points during the competitions, there’s the chance she will qualify for the coming 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, representing Taiwan (Chinese Taipei).
Even at 10 months, before Birthe could stand and walk, her dad, a 3-time Olympic biathlon skier, carried her on his back and skied all over the mountains of Canada. Birthe spent most of her childhood skiing in ski schools in Whistler, and later in Japan after they moved back to Taiwan.
“You see people crash down the slopes or get smashed in the face by the gates, but to us, it occurs so frequently that we gradually grow numb to them. We always say what hurts the most from a ski crash is not a bruised back, or even a broken leg, but a wounded pride,” Birthe says.
Birthe’s legitimate race-training only began about 3 years ago when she joined the Nozawa Ski Club in Japan. Every winter holiday and during long weekends, she would fly to nearby Japan or Korea for skiing for trainings or just for fun.
For two summers, Birthe lived on the Hintertux Glacier up on the Alps in Austria for two weeks of training with the Austrian Racing Camp.
“They have a whole new level of skiing there. I remember being scared of an infinitely deep ice-crack in the middle of the course, but everyone else just skied past it like they don’t realize they can just fall right through and never return!” she says.
Birthe is turning 16 years old this year, the age that officially marks the beginning of her ski-racing career. From this point on, she will be competing with and ranked against all the world’s top racers.
But winning is not what drives her. It’s the love of speed. “Constantly, I search to become faster, to pass people and the scenery, to be in a blur of the surroundings.” she says.
“Somehow, by being in this blur, I can see clearer, hear better, and feel every nerve in my body sharper.”

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