Alexandria Loutitt paints a vivid picture of what’s going on between her ears.
“I call it my Swiss cheese brain. It’s like a block of Swiss cheese. You have all these holes with random thoughts and ideas and songs and whatever, Tik Tok sounds, stuck in my head and they’re all kind of going off at the same time,” the 19-year-old Calgary-born ski jumper said last week from her erstwhile home in Slovenia. “There is always noise in my head, but when I’m competing and when the pressure is on and my adrenaline is spiking, it’s like you’re squishing this block of cheese and it’s one thought. There aren’t all these random holes in my brain anymore.”
From start to finish, a ski jump takes about 12 seconds, so it’s the perfect sport for people like Loutitt, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a couple of years ago.
“I don’t need to concentrate very long, and I also don’t let myself focus on ski jumping until right before I’m going to jump, because that’s part of it, where it gets out of hand and it turns into a whole bunch of different thoughts.
“So I let my brain wander and do what it wants until I’m about to compete, then I’m good. And you know, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s really an advantage for me because I don’t get nervous the way other athletes might. It’s a really good tool in a way. I’ve learned to use my differences to create success for myself.
“I absolutely call it my super power. I have learned to use it to my advantage. My ADHD is part of my success.”
She was diagnosed only after the team sport psychologist suggested she likely had ADHD and ought to have it confirmed.
“So I went and got diagnosed. And yeah, it just all made sense.
“As a kid you always feel different and you don’t exactly understand why you’re different, because it’s all brain chemistry. No kid would understand those fine details.
“My brother also has ADHD. If I had a role model or my brother had a role model who was like (us), maybe you would have realized it sooner or you would have felt better about yourself as a kid, because you always see the perfect, idealized version of people. They don’t talk about mental health or disorders or things like that. I think it can create positive change, not only in the sporting world, but for many children.”
She would like to act as inspiration for youngsters just finding out about ADHD, and she is well positioned to give them hope. She was a member of Canada’s historic bronze medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 and followed up with a bronze at the World Junior Championships later that year, before really breaking out in 2023. She became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup ski jumping event in January in Japan, added World Junior gold the next month, then World Championship gold in March.
The hot streak has even continued into this summer on the Grand Prix circuit as she picked up four consecutive bronze medals at events in France and Poland. That tour continues in Romania in September and Germany in October. Though Grand Prix fields are not nearly as strong as those on the World Cup tour, she is encouraged all the same.
“I struggle a lot in the summer just because of where we are in our training cycle. I definitely perform better in winter. I just prefer the feel of winter jumping, so to be performing at a high level in summer is good and consistency is also really important. Winning one event is great, but you want to be consistent.”
Summer jumping is entirely different than its winter cousin as competitors glide down the ramp on porcelain or plastic tracks that are watered by intermittent sprinklers. The landing area consists of long threads of plastic, all facing in the same direction, that are sprayed with water. The jumpers leave a healthy wax base on their skis to protect them from wear and tear.
Once the Grand Prix circuit finishes, Loutitt and her Canadian teammates Abigail Strate, Nicole Maurer and Natalie Eilers will jump into the World Cup season with the opener set for Lillehammer, Norway in early December. It wraps up with the 16th and final women’s event in March back in Norway. Loutitt has been outspoken about the gap that exists in opportunities for women and men in her sport, but prize money is on the rise, so too the number of events for women and their exposure on TV.
“It’s moving in the right direction, for sure.”
So is Loutitt, and she is happy to credit her super power.