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Local athlete, 12, always striving to be 'Queen of the Mountain'

Anna Vurma loves a challenge, whether it's during competition or on an outdoor rink

“Every day, we’re searching for new ways to inspire athletes and make the sports they love even more fun.”

This is how the company that developed the popular GPS-based sports tracking app, Strava, describes its product. And when it comes to 12-year-old athlete Anna Vurma, the creators of Strava, which is the Swedish word for strive, can be assured their mantra is working.

One of the ways Anna is keeping active this winter is by chasing Strava’s QOM (Queen of the Mountain) awards on her cross-country skis. A Queen of the Mountain is “crowned” for achieving the top performance, or fastest time, when skiing, cycling or biking a specific segment of a trail or route.

For Anna, who lives with her active, sporting family near Horseshoe Valley, going after QOM awards is one of the ways she’s been adding fun to her outings, whether training on her skis or mountain bike.

“I have five QOMs right now,” said Anna — “three for biking and two for skiing.”

You would assume that Anna’s awards would be for achieving the fastest time among those in her age group. No! There are no age groups; just one winner among all females — amazing.

It’s no surprise that Anna has become an accomplished cross-country skier, considering her family’s interest in the sport. Her parents, Sarah and Jason Vurma, are both avid skiers, as is her older brother, Erik. In fact, both Sarah and Jason are coaches with Team Hardwood, the cross-country ski-racing program where both kids train and race.

What is surprising is the energy and drive Anna not only brings to the sport of cross-country skiing, but to everything she does to keep active outdoors.

Although she says cross-country skiing is her favourite sport, Anna is also a competitive mountain biker (with Hardwood Nextwave) and swimmer (with the Orillia Channel Cats), downhill skier, and runner, not to mention her regular outings to the local park for skating and tobogganing.

As a Grade 6 student at Regent Park Public School, Anna is busy with online learning, but says she doesn’t like the feeling of sitting at her computer without being active for some part of every day.

“I don’t like not doing something during the day,” explained Anna. “If I don’t have organized stuff to do, I will make a plan to do something. You have to dedicate time in your day to go outside. It’s just satisfying. I like to see nature and be with friends.”

This winter, because of COVID restrictions, Anna has missed her regular weekend routine of attending ski races and loppets. The family would typically attend 10 or 12 events throughout the season.

“I miss the races and travelling and seeing friends. I have one friend I haven’t seen since last March when we were at a ski race in Timmins,” she said.

What has helped Anna make up for the loss of her participation in team events is her social network Strava team, where athletes can test their performance with and against others.

“I like to ski as hard as I can to see if I can get the QOM,” she said.

Anna said she recently looked at the best time for a certain ski trail loop and thought, “I can totally go faster than that!”

She explained: “What happened is, I got it, but then the girl I stole it from came for revenge and took it back. But then I got it back again!”

When asked if the speed she needs to go in order to get the crown ever scares her, Anna was quick to respond. “Oh, no. I love doing the downhills. I get into the biggest tuck ever. Sometimes you have to eat your knees on some hills.”

Anna’s mom, Sarah, says she is in awe of her daughter’s grit and determination. “It’s something I certainly don’t have. Anna just doesn’t stop.”

That is for sure. Even when she’s at the park for fun, Anna comes up with a challenge for herself, whether trying a new run down the toboggan hill or creating a skating maze on the rink.

“The other day I was at the park with a friend and we were bored, so we made up a game that we were creating roads by shovelling snow off the rink. We turned it into a maze and it was a great way to practise going fast and turning.”

With or without the assistance of a training app, Anna seems to be able to find ways of making whatever she does outdoors more fun. It’s no wonder that getting outside and being active is such a big part of her daily routine. And that daily routine is impressive. When you see her enjoying herself at the local park, it is usually after logging 15 to 25 kilometres on her skis, completing a dryland or weight-training workout, and possibly even grabbing another QOM from any number of unsuspecting high-performance skiers.

Go, Anna!