SYDNEY, Australia Resilience is a feature of the Australian outback and lifestyle. The landscape is often portrayed as a hot land of sunburned plains, rugged mountains, kangaroos and wild horses. Animals, plants and people here often find surprising ways to recover after fire, flood, drought and other adversity.
The Australian Winter Olympics ski team is another example of Australian resilience. Having to face challenges such as distance from top-class competition, finding sponsors, variable snow-falls and a short snow season, the members of the team are rising to the challenge. The surprise of the team is Rowena Bright, the first Australian Latter-day Saint to represent her country in the Winter Olympics.
Bright of the Cooma Branch, Canberra Australia Stake, is a bright star on the rise. At 21, she is the youngest Australian female to meet the 2002 Olympic nomination criteria. This means that barring injury or ill-health she will compete in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City next February. Resilience is a strong part of her character. Despite the many challenges faced so far in her career, her faith and testimony have kept her focused through times of adversity.
Last year while competing in Austria, she crashed at high speed, falling heavily and sustaining injuries including broken bones. But she came back from the accident stronger and better prepared for the challenges ahead. "I have overcome injury, disappointments and setbacks before. I have seen how those challenges have been opportunities for blessings," she said.
Matching her eagerness to participate in the next Olympics is the prospect of competing in Utah. She comes from a strong family who has supported her quest for Olympic triumph. Her parents are heavily involved in her preparations and, according to the young woman, she wouldn't have it any other way. She said her family means everything to her.
"They are a great source of inspiration and strength to me," she said.
As well as being the youngest woman on the Australian Winter Olympic Ski Team, Bright is also a snow sports veteran, having competed at national events since she was 12. At the international level she has placed in the top 10 in several events in the past few years in slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill.
She is not alone in her love of snow sports. Her younger sister, Torah, and younger brother, Ben, recently finished third and ninth in the world junior snow-boarding titles held in Europe. Torah has an outside chance of also making the Olympic team and joining her older sister in Utah.
The Australian media are very interested in the fact that Rowena Bright is a Latter-day Saint heading to Utah to compete. As a result, she and her family have to juggle a busy training schedule with television appearances and interviews with magazines and newspapers.
"It is such a wonderful opportunity to represent my family, my country and also my Church," said Bright, who also enjoys painting when she has time in her training schedule. "I just want to do my very best and, I hope, help some people along the way to understand what my faith and my family mean to me. I look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to act as a goodwill ambassador for the Church to help explain some of the cultural and historical background of Salt Lake City to the Australian viewing audience."