Ski racers tend to get a questionable reputation for lacking brains. Under- standable when they’re clocking breathless speeds of over 100mph! But this particular athlete contradicts any such beliefs. Her profession is as a lawyer and she has a clear understanding of what she wants to achieve and how she intends to get there.
23 year old Leanne Brown lives in the Winston Hills, in the suburbs of Sydney. She’s been skiing for 20 years and raced for the first time when she was just seven years of age. Her father and friends introduced her and her brother Craig and sister Sonja to skiing. Since then, Craig has won the Classic Bridge-to-Bridge race twice and conjured up his own set of notable results in Australian ski racing. He skis behind the World famous boat “Mirage”. Sonja? – Well she claims to be the only sane one who gave up!
Winning a World title is every ski racer’s dream. It’s the ultimate achievement and something which many strive towards at some stage in their career. Leanne Brown hadn’t even won an Australian title when she first became the Women’s World Champion at Vichy France in 1993. But that’s not to say she didn’t firmly have her mind distinctly focused on where she wanted to be. But to return to Europe two years later in 1995, and successfully defend her title is a remarkable and rare feat to be proud of. Only Britain’s Liz Hobbs, Belgium’s Danny Bertels and America’s Debbie Nordblad had won a the title twice. But then in October 1997 she made history and became the first person in water ski racing to win three world titles.
But reaching these heights in such a demanding sport takes a lot. The run up to each of the three World Championships she’s taken part in, has seen her follow intense gruelling training programs. Some mornings she would get up at 3am to drive one hour to Bondi Beach or the gym for a one to two hour training session of running, swimming or weights and cardio work. She spends six days each week in the gym with her personal trainer, tries to ski for an hour, two/three times each week, swim on two/three days and run or undertake cardio work on four/five days. As well as the early morning training she trains at night too. And for those of you who think she has plenty of time for all this…you’re wrong! Because don’t forget she’s a full-time lawyer with a very heavy schedule. Unlike many, Leanne creates no excuses & just gets on with the job. But aside from all physical and mental demands facing her, she’s interested in public affairs, rollerblading, wakeboarding, basketball, going to the beach and seeing her friends.
In any sportsperson’s success, there are people who help them on their road. And without these people, the road isn’t quite so smooth. Her crew members in the boat “Humble” are Rick Cranbrook (right) who drives and Errol Thurgar (right) who observes. Leanne says that nothing is ever a problem for Rick, and Errol has observed for her since she started racing. She says “he would probably be able to know how I was skiing blindfolded!” Other people who she feels deserve recognition are Malcolm Priest the engine mechanic, Cliff Priest who owns “The Sting”, Craig Burton who is her trainer and a former Australian World team member himself, and of course her family and friends. Oakley sunglasses, Dolphin Wetsuits, Bushy Brown Race Skis and Savage Ski Accessories are all sponsors who have supported Leanne along the way.
After winning her third World title she has been justifiably recognised and has received a number of sporting awards in Australia. She has been nominated against some of Australia’s top sporting personalities for awards, which she is rightly proud of. Now looked upon as a role model for the younger skiers, Leanne is happy to help where ever possible. Her success has created a greater awareness of ski racing amongst the general Australian public and this can only be good for the sport as a whole. The advice she would like to give to youngsters is to have a good crew and not expect things to come easily. Leanne says “Everything worth having requires hard work and determination. Make sure you are racing because you love it, not because you’re made to. Then you will love training to be the best you can”. She concludes that “concentration, willpower, training, desire and skiing within one’s own limits, and all the little things, lead to success”.
For some people, reaching such heights dilutes any further taste of success. But Leanne intends to continue racing until she either no longer enjoys skiing or doesn’t have the time to keep fit to ski at the level she’s at. Her hero in racing has been former World Champion from Australia – Tanya Williams, and she admires fellow Australian Mary McMillan (left). Mary has competed in every Bridge-to-Bridge race since 1961. An annual race is held on the Hawkesbury River in her honour for all the top Women skiers and Mary also competes in this. Leanne says that Mary was the first woman to barefoot, has skied the Adriatic sea etc. Her grandson is Leanne’s age and Leanne went on to say “Mary loves skiing and always wants the best for everyone. Maybe I’ll be skiing when I’m that age!”
Leanne raced in the 1994 Catalina in California and became the first International skier to win the Women’s category in over 10 years. This was in ocean conditions which she was never too keen on until she had to train in the sea to go to the World Titles. In 1997 she teamed up with World silver medallist Joanne Hamilton to finish third outright in the Sydney Bridge to Bridge. An awesome feat!
So there you have it, the young Woman who began racing with her sister behind Dad’s boat and who was never the best skier in those earlier days. The Woman who claims to be “A late bloomer”! The Woman who is now without doubt, one of the finest ski racers of all time.
By Robbie Llewellyn (1997)