Aided by the encouragement of training partner Taylah O’Neill, next generation mogul skier Emma Bosco has her sights set on Milan 2026, after an all-too-common anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prompted a change of tack.
Having torn the ACL in her right knee, like O’Neill had done twice before, the 19-year-old engineering student returned to competition last week – in the North American Cup event at Apex Mountain, Canada – two years since her last competition.
During that same period, O’Neill – a UNSW media graduate – was working her way back to competition which saw her qualify for a second Olympics, starting this weekend in Beijing.
“I’ve trained a lot with Taylah actually. She’s from Sydney, UNSW girl,” Bosco said. “We spent a lot of time in the gym, just the two of us, over this past summer.”
“She’s blown a few ACLs over that time, so she’s had a lot of advice to give me (which) was really helpful, knowing that there was a friendly face to show up to in the gym every day.
“The day after I blew it, she was up at 6.30 texting me, just saying that ‘you’ll get through this’ and she gave me these little tips like sleep with a pillow between your knees and just that sort of thing, lots of practical advice.”
O’Neill made her first Olympic team at the same age Bosco is now, in the Russian city of Sochi during 2014, meaning time is on Bosco’s side for an Olympic dream that began in earnest at just 16 when she joined the extended Australian Moguls team.
The 19-year-old also hails from the same Winter Sports Club in Perisher where O’Neill learnt her skiing.
Bosco tore her ACL during her HSC trial exams in August 2020 just as Australia was coming out of its first wave of COVID-19.
“ACL injuries are incredibly common in mogul skiers. I know so many different female athletes especially who have torn ACLs,” Bosco said.
“It was hard to deal with at first, nine months out of your sport is definitely difficult, but I just used it as an opportunity to come back to the sport both physically and mentally strong.”
“And that sort of got me through the nine months … just focusing on the small wins and the progress that you make is something that helped me a lot.”
Like O’Neill, the injury gave Bosco the opportunity to complete more of her degree than she would have otherwise been afforded given competition and training commitments.
“Originally my plan was to defer a year and to focus on making the games,” Bosco said, “but when I tore my ACL it ended up being quite a positive thing that I got to start uni.”
“I did my first trimester completely in person (and) got to meet lots of people in my course and that’s been really helpful, now that I’m away more, because I have people to ask questions of, that are back sitting in classrooms.
“Being able to go to (university), finish training and put that aside and just step into a different world was pretty cool, just getting to explore the side of myself that’s just not the skier.
“It was a good distraction for my rehab, having something else to focus on.”
A fascination with physics and mathematics led Bosco towards a Mechanical Engineering degree, of which she has completed one year.
“I am really interested in the biomechanics side of sport, and I didn’t necessarily want to do a sports medicine degree.”
“I’m always thinking about ‘I’m pulling this many newtons and what does this actually mean?’ and that sort of thing,” she joked. “Sometimes (my sports science trainer and I), we nerd about a bit about that.”
Being a travelling athlete, Bosco said the support of the UNSW Elite Athlete program has been invaluable, even after just one year of her degree.
“Just knowing that I have a support group that means when I go away, I don’t have to stress about exams and if I can move them.
“It was actually on the way over here (to Canada) I had to move my flight … when I was supposed to be leaving in a week, but I decided that I should fly out the next day because of Omicron and I ended up flying out 15 minutes after one of my final exams was supposed to start, so I got on the phone to the (EAP Coordinator, Helen Bryson).
“‘What do I do? I need help,’ and she helped me apply for special consideration.”
Despite the disappointment of missing the opportunity to contend for Beijing selection, Bosco will be up at 5am with her touring team mates in Canada cheering on their Australian counterparts in their first qualification runs.
“Moguls is always the first event, so that’s always exciting,” Bosco said.
“It’s always disappointing not to be in Beijing, up until two years ago that was definitely my goal.
“But I think my team has given me so much and I’ve learnt so much, that absolutely I’ll be up tomorrow morning, ready to support them all.”