A stunning World Para Snow Sports Championships showing from Britain’s Para Snowsport team sees the squad return home with ten medals, two World Championships, and a marker set as the Beijing Paralympic Winter Games draw closer

As the dust settles and teams depart Lillehammer following the conclusion of the World Para Snow Sports Championships, Britain can look back on an astonishing Championships record. 10 medals. Two World Champions. Four first-ever British medals in events and classifications. And a series of highly competitive performances from more athletes than a British squad has ever successfully led into a World Para Snow Sports Championships.

At the close, the Alpine medal count stood at seven, with Millie Knight and Guide Brett Wild’s Gold in the VI Super Combined matched by Menna Fitzpatrick and Guide Katie Guest’s own victory in the VI Slalom category. Knight and Wild’s Super-G bronze and Fitzpatrick and Guest’s Super Combined silver saw the athletes set themselves right at the head of the Women’s VI Alpine field as the Paralympic Games in Beijing approach.

In the Men’s VI Alpine category, brothers Neil and Andrew Simpson’s silver in the Men’s VI Super Combined capped a sensational performance for the pair, and saw Britain take home its first ever World Championships medal in Men’s VI Alpine skiing, alongside two fourth places and a sixth place in Downhill, Super-G and Slalom respectively. Meanwhile, Shona Brownlee on her first full season as part of the national Para Snowsport squad took Britain’s first ever Women’s Alpine Sit-Ski medals following up a silver in the Sitting Super-G with bronze in the Sitting Super Combined on her World Championships debut.

Snowboarding accounted for the rest of the British medal count, with last season’s Crystal Globe winner, James Barnes-Miller, to the fore. His bronze in the Upper Limb Dual Banked Slalom was followed by silver in the Upper Limb Snowboard Cross before a bronze alongside teammate Ollie Hill in the first ever World Para Snow Sports Championships Snowboard Cross Team event rounded out British participation at the Championships.

Aside from the medals, the Para Nordic squad seized a brace of top-10s through Scott Meenagh and Steve Arnold, while there were encouraging performances in the Snowboard events from Nina Sparks and Jon-Allan Butterworth on their World Championships debuts.

Jayne Kavanagh, GB Snowsport Head of Paralympic Programmes, had this to say from Lillehammer:

I think the overall reaction, coming away from these Championships, is pride. Proud of what we’ve achieved in terms of medals and performances, but prouder still of where this squad is on their journey. It’s not been an easy couple of years for anyone involved in Para Snowsport, and the whole team, and all the coaches and support staff, have moved heaven and earth to make sure we’re able to show our talent on the world stage.

“While we’re deeply proud of our efforts, what these Championships also showed is the enormous progress made by other national teams since the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games in 2018. The level of competition has risen dramatically, which is an achievement the global Para Snowsport movement can be immensely proud of. We can look forward with real excitement to new and fiercer rivalries across all classifications and events as we head towards Beijing.

“Britain has never had a squad with this depth of talent, and we’re now competitive in more disciplines and with more athletes than ever before. The history books will show the ten medals and the two World Championship titles we come away with, but the real measure of this team’s success is in showing the rest of the world that we’re a force to be reckoned with in every event that we enter.”

The Para Snowsport squad will now enter a short competition, training and recovery block before confirmation of the athletes selected to compete for Britain by ParalympicsGB at the Beijing Paralympic Games follows in late February.

Header Image: James Barnes-Miller. Credit: Luc Percival Photography

An historic weekend for British snowsport saw Dave Ryding take the nation’s first ever Alpine World Cup win, while in Lillehammer the Para Snowsport Squad continued their remarkable run of form at the World Para Snow Sports Championships.

On a course that has long been written into the annals of Alpine skiing lore, Dave Ryding rode into the history books in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on Saturday, taking Britain’s first ever Alpine World Cup victory. Having recorded his previous best result at the same venue with a second place finish in 2017, Ryding’s time of 1:41.26 was enough to hold off the Norwegian pair of Lucas Braathen in second, and Henrik Kristoffersen in third.

Placed sixth after the first run, the Rocket put down a blistering second run of 49.86 and then watched as those after him were unable to match his combination of skill, balance, and speed on the course. Ryding’s victory was confirmed when Italy’s Alex Vinatzer saw errors lose him time, and sparked wild celebrations in Austria and back home in Britain.

The result takes Ryding’s career World Cup podiums to four, all of which have come in his 30s, and marks a serious show of late-career intent on the day after Ryding was confirmed as part of the Team GB squad for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games starting next month.

Speaking to GB Snowsport after his win in Kitzbuehel, Dave said:

Hard work pays off, and this was a victory that everybody – my fiancée,  my coach Tristan, my wax tech Jai, Billy, Laurie, Alain Baxter, my ski tech Ryan, all the sponsors, the Lottery, and everyone involved at GB Snowsport and UK Sport – played a part in.

I always said I’d be proud of myself if I knew I gave my best, and Saturday showed what my best can lead to. I hope if there’s young skiers who were watching on Saturday in Britain, they can look at it and know it’s possible for them too. It’s hard work, and there’s ups and downs, but I promise it’s all worth it.”

Meanwhile, at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Britain’s Para Snowsport squad continued their remarkable form this season, taking the country’s overall medal tally from the Championships to 10.

A 1-2 in the Para Alpine VI Super Combined saw Millie Knight and Brett Wild crowned World Champions with Menna Fitzpatrick and Katie Guest taking silver. Fitzpatrick and Guest later notched gold of their own in the VI Slalom race, giving Britain a brace of Para Alpine World Champions heading into the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson took silver in the Super Combined, while James Barnes-Miller took his personal Championships tally to three with Snowboard cross silver, followed by a bronze in the team event competing alongside Ollie Hill.

Shona Brownlee’s Sitting Super Combined bronze added to her earlier silver in the Sitting Super-G in an astonishing World Championships debut. More detail on the team’s outstanding performances in Lillehammer will be available in our dedicated post-Championships round-up, coming later.

Aspen, Colorado, played host to a remarkable X Games competition which saw four British skiers take on one of the world’s most iconic freestyle sport gatherings. Zoe Atkin’s fourth place in Superpipe was the pick of the results, while Kirsty Muir landed an outstanding fifth spot having learned just one run before competition began that she would step up to compete from her alternate position. James Woods bagged sixth in Slopestyle, while Gus Kenworthy signed off on his X Games career with ninth in Superpipe on his 32nd Games appearance.

The weekly GB Snowsport results summary is presented in association with Snow+Rock

Header Image: Dave Ryding celebrates victory at Kitzbuehel World Cup, January 2022 Photo: Gepa Images/Wolfgang Grebien

A packed week of action at the World Para Snow Sports Championships saw Britain take three medals from the opening days’ competitions, while elsewhere there were impressive results for Charlie Guest and Katie Summerhayes

Britain’s Para Snowsport bagged three medals in the opening stretch of the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, with Para Alpine sit skier Shona Brownlee marking her first World Championships appearance with a silver in Super-G, Para Alpine Paralympic medallist Millie Knight bagging Super-G bronze, and Para Snowboarder James Barnes-Miller also grabbing Dual Banked Slalom bronze.

Amid a festival of Para Snowsport at the famed site of the 1994 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson took an impressive fourth place in Super-G, with Menna Fitzpatrick and Katie Guest coming in fifth in their own Super-G race.

In Snowboard Dual Banked Slalom, Nina Sparks marked an impressive World Championships debut by progressing to the quarter finals, losing out to eventual champion Lisa Bunschoten, while Ollie Hill took an exceptional fourth place, finishing just 1.08 seconds outside of the bronze medal position to Ben Tudhope. Jon-Allan Butterworth, also making his World Championships debut, finished less than three seconds outside of the quarter final qualification spots, Owen Pick was disqualified in his qualifying run, while Andy Macleod was eliminated at the same stage.

In the Para Nordic competitions, the pick of the results was Scott Meenagh’s 12th place in the Sprint competition, 14th place in Middle C and 15th in Middle, while Steve Arnold recovered from an injury scare in Middle C to return to competition just two days later with 19th (Sprint) and 17th (Middle) place finishes. Steve Thomas took 21st in Middle C.

On the Alpine World Cup circuit, Charlie Guest’s excellent season continued with a personal best 13th place finish at World Cup Schladming in her fourth top-20 finish in just seven races this season. Dave Ryding took 16th place at World Cup Wengen, to put a short run of DNFs behind him, while also taking fourth spot in the invitational night slalom at Crans Montana.

The Freeski World Cup in Font Romeu ended with a sixth place Slopestyle finish for Katie Summerhayes, her first top-10 since last year’s Silvaplana World Cup. In the men’s competition, Chris McCormick came in 24th. In Laax, Katie Ormerod took 11th place in the Freestyle Snowboard World Cup.

Finally, Nakiska’s dual Ski Cross World Cups saw Emma Peters and Ollie Davies both take top-20 finishes, with each coming in 19th spot in the first of the event’s two WC competitions.

The weekly GB Snowsport results summary is presented in association with Snow+Rock

Header Image: James Barnes-Miller at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, January 2022. Photo: Gisle Johnson

Ahead of the World PAra Snow Sports Championships, we take a look at what to expect from the British squad in Norway

The World Para Snow Sports Championships, which get underway this week in Lillehammer, Norway, marks the biggest Para Snow Sports competition in the country since the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games.

GB Snowsport has named its largest ever squad for a World Para Snow Sports Championships, with 18 athletes and 5 guides travelling out for the competition.

Who’s in the squad?

The GB team was named on 23 December, and contains a mix of experienced World Championships athletes and some of the most exciting new names in world Para Snowsport.

PARA ALPINE

  • Shona Brownlee
  • Menna Fitzpatrick (Guide: Katie Guest)
  • Millie Knight (Guide: Brett Wild)
  • Neil Simpson (Guide: Andrew Simpson)
  • Dan Sheen
  • Alex Slegg
  • James Whitley
  • Adam Hall (Supporting Guide)
  • Gary Smith (Supporting Guide)

PARA NORDIC

  • Steve Arnold
  • Callum Deboys
  • Hope Gordon
  • Scott Meenagh
  • Steve Thomas

PARA SNOWBOARD

  • James Barnes-Miller
  • Jon-Allan Butterworth
  • Ollie Hill
  • Andy MacLeod
  • Owen Pick
  • Nina Sparks

When does it get underway?

Competition starts on 13 January, with Para Alpine Downhill and Cross Country Middle Distance. The Para Snowboard programme gets underway on 14 January with the Dual Banked Slalom races.

How have the preparations gone?

GB’s Para Snowsport squad have already put down some impressive results this season, with Alex Slegg, Shona Brownlee, Menna Fitzpatrick, Millie Knight, Neil Simpson, and James Barnes-Miller all notching podium finishes in World Cup competitions ahead of the Championships.

The Para Nordic squad have also been on good form, and are benefiting from their first season in the new Williams Advanced Engineering designed sit-ski rigs which were unveiled late last year.

How can I watch the Events?

All Para Alpine, Para Nordic and Para Snowboard events will be streamed live on the World Para Snow Sports Facebook page: www.facebook.com/parasnowsports and live links will be available via the International Paralympic Committee’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/paralympics

Where can I find out more?

The official Championships website has all the latest information, including details on all of the events, at www.paralympic.org/lillehammer-2021

We’ll be bringing you news of British performances and results as soon as we get them across GB Snowsport’s social media channels.

Header Image: James Barnes-Miller at the Paracross World Cup, Pyha, 2021

Britain to take 18-strong squad to Lillehammer for Norway’s biggest Para Snowsport event since 1994 Paralympic Winter Games

GB Snowsport are delighted to name the 18 athletes and five Guides who will form the biggest ever squad taken by Britain to January’s World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Norway. The Championships, which will run from 8-23 January 2022, are expected to draw together around 750 of the world’s most talented Para Snowsport athletes, and mark the first time that the Para Alpine, Para Biathlon, Para Cross-Country and Para Snowboard World Championships are held in a single host nation.

British hopes will be spearheaded by some of the biggest names in Para Snowsport, including Winter Paralympic medallists Menna Fitzpatrick and Millie Knight and 2019 Para World Championship silver medallist Owen Pick. The squad announcement also confirms that, for the first time, Britain will have female representation across each of the discipline squads, marking an important step forward in the sport’s ongoing efforts to build strength and depth across more classifications and events than ever before.

The World Para Snow Sports Championships will see a number of athletes making their Para Snow Sports World Championships debut for Britain, including Hope Gordon, Ollie Hill, summer Paralympic medallist Jon-Allan Butterworth, Nina Sparks, Shona Brownlee and Dan Sheen.

Para Alpine Squad

  • Shona Brownlee
  • Menna Fitzpatrick (Guide: Katie Guest)
  • Millie Knight (Guide: Brett Wild)
  • Neil Simpson (Guide: Andrew Simpson)
  • Dan Sheen
  • Alex Slegg
  • James Whitley
  • Adam Hall (Supporting Guide)
  • Gary Smith (Supporting Guide)

Para Nordic Squad

  • Steve Arnold
  • Callum Deboys
  • Hope Gordon
  • Scott Meenagh
  • Steve Thomas

Para Snowboard

  • James Barnes-Miller
  • Jon-Allan Butterworth
  • Ollie Hill
  • Andy MacLeod
  • Owen Pick
  • Nina Sparks

Jayne Kavanagh, Head of Paralympic Programmes, said:

After a superb start to the season from all our Para Snowsport athletes, we go into this year’s World Para Snow Sports Championships ready to show the world what this group of athletes can achieve. We’ve got an exciting blend of experienced athletes and Championship debutants which reflects the strength-in-depth that we have to call on across all our disciplines.

The extra year of preparation from the delay to the Championships has given us the opportunity to really build towards this moment, and we all look forward to seeing British athletes out there competing with the best in the world.”

The World Para Snow Sports Championships get underway on 8 January 2022 in Lillehammer, Norway. For more information on the Championships, visit https://www.paralympic.org/lillehammer-2021/about

Header Image Credit: Pam Doyle

A strong result for Freestyle Snowboarder Katie Ormerod, and Europa Cup podium finishes for two of the Para Snowboard squad headlined a busy weekend for Britain’s skiers and snowboarders

Freestyle Snowboarder Katie Ormerod notched her highest World Cup finish since February 2020 and her best Big Air result since August 2019 with fifth place at Steamboat World Cup on Saturday. Ormerod, making her first competition appearance of the 2021/22 season, banked a score of 112.75 bringing her in just ahead of Canadian Jasmine Baird, whose 111.75 was enough to secure her sixth place.

Ormerod was joined in Steamboat by fellow Brits Billy Cockrell, who claimed 34th spot in the men’s Freestyle Snowboard Big Air, James Woods and Chris McCormick (21st and 25th in men’s Freestyle Ski Big Air), and Izzy Atkin and Katie Summerhayes (16th and 23rd in women’s Freestyle Ski Big Air).

In Landgraaf, the Para Snowboard squad saw noteworthy Europa Cup Banked Slalom results for Nina Sparks (2nd) and Jon-Allan Butterworth (3rd) in the women’s and men’s competitions. At World Cup level, Owen Pick landed 4th and 5th placed finishes in the week’s two World Cup competitions, Ollie Hill a pair of 6th places, and James Barnes-Miller 5th and 6th.

Meanwhile, the Para Nordic squad were in action in Canmore, Canada, with Scott Meenagh (7th) and Steve Arnold (9th) both securing top-10 finishes in the Para Nordic World Cup.

Lloyd Wallace’s first Aerials World Cup of the season saw him land a 17th placed finish, while the GB Moguls Squad saw a number of post-injury returns at the World Cup, Ruka, with Tom Gerken Schofield, Makayla Gerken Schofield and Skyler Nunn all making their first appearances of the season. The pick of the results saw Leonie Gerken Schofield finish in 28th place in the women’s competition.

Andrew Musgrave secured another top-20 finish in the 15km F at the Cross Country World Cup in Lillehammer, coming in a little ahead of Russia’s Artem Maltsev who finished in 21st.

In Alpine, Victoria Palla added to her collection of podium finishes for the 2021/22 season, coming second in the National Junior Grand Slalom Race in Santa Caterina Valfurva, while Ted Slade also notched a National Junior Race podium with third place in Slalom in Passo Monte Croce.

The weekly GB Snowsport results summary is presented in association with Snow+Rock

Header Image: Katie Ormerod, Photo Credit: Matt McCormick

He made history in 2018 as the first snowboarder to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games, but as we catch up with James Barnes-Miller, it’s clear the hard work is just beginning

For Para-Snowboarder James Barnes-Miller, Christmases lately haven’t offered much by way of relaxation. With England in lockdown, Barnes-Miller’s festive period was spent at home “recovering and doing physio”, the result of a training accident – “a slam that separated my AC joint,” he explains – that set the clock ticking on his recovery before the start of a crucial season.

“I think I spoke to Lawrence [Sonvico – GB Snowsport’s lead physiotherapist] every day. Then the first week in January, I spent a week with him in Sheffield for intense rehab, and after that it was straight back out to Finland to carry on the rehab there and get back on the snow.” With the first races of the season just weeks away, Barnes-Miller was in a race against time, especially when he realised the extent of the recovery process.

“The first week back out there, I still couldn’t pull out of a start gate, so that was worrying,” he says, with just a hint of understatement. “Training on snow twice a day, fitting the rehab around that. It paid off though – I came away from Finland with two silver medals.”

It’s work that continued paying off, as Barnes-Miller ended up in possession of the Crystal Globe at the end of a gruelling season, the result, he says, of careful planning and preparation. “The season before, I finished runner up, and we had loads to work on – so going one better was my goal. We sat down, wrote up a plan of what we needed to do to achieve it.” He almost makes it sound simple, until you realise, again, the references to putting the work in.

Hard work is a recurring theme for Barnes-Miller – so often does he reference it that it almost feels like a mantra – but it comes as the consequence of being a part of a Para Snowsport squad which has seen its size and competitiveness increase with each passing year. There’s no doubt, though, that he relishes the competition. “It’s a great thing, being a part of the country’s biggest ever Para Snowsport squad,” he says. “In every discipline, we’re getting better and better every year.”

This year, of course, is a big one. Assuming all goes to plan, Barnes-Miller will be heading to Beijing for his second Paralympic Games having been the first ever snowboarder to represent GB at the Paralympics when he left the gate for his Snowboard Cross qualification run in PyeongChang. His seventh and tenth placed finishes in Snowboard Cross SB-UL and in Banked Slalom respectively are now a part of his story, but this time, he says, he’s learned to “treat it as just another race, and not let any distractions change that. At the last Games, I was just happy I’d made it, and I wanted to take it all in. This time I want to be super focused.”

He’ll be taking inspiration from outside the sport, too, having liked what he saw at the Summer Games in Tokyo, particularly the skateboarding – a sport for which he has a well-known passion. “I loved it! I watched a lot of the Olympics as I love sport, and honestly, I thought the skateboarding was the best spectacle.” Typically for Barnes-Miller, his thoughts were on the bigger picture too. “It wasn’t just the performance,” he says, “the presenting and the commentary was outstanding too. They absolutely smashed it.”

And what about Christmas this year? Will it be a last opportunity to get some downtime in before the Paralympics gets underway?

Not a chance.

“I’ll be in the gym every day”, he explains without hesitation. “Plus, I live in the mountains, so I’ll be out on my board so I’m ready to go straight into the World Championships in January.”

James Barnes-Miller is a man with a focus. You wouldn’t bet on anything stopping him.

James Barnes-Miller Biography

  • Born: 1989
  • Discipline: Para Snowboard
  • Hometown: Broadstairs, England
  • Top Result: Crystal Globe Winner, 2021

Header Image: James Barnes-Miller at Paracross-WC-Pyha. Photo by Simo Vilhunen-

For World Mental Health Day 2021, we spoke with Para-Snowboard athlete Jon-Allan Butterworth on his journey from RAF weapons technician to snowboarder, as well as the role of mental health in the career of a professional athlete.

Tell us your background in the Armed Forces… 

“I worked as a weapons technician, which was a very varied and diverse trade. I serviced and maintained on and off aircraft weapons and explosives.  I went to Afghanistan in 2005 as part of 3(F) Sqn Harrier jump jets and Iraq in 2007 joining 903 EAW (Expeditionary Air Wing). I always wanted to become a Pilot and at 16 I chose to take the indirect route of entry. I was too young to join as a Pilot straight away, my plan was to get experience in the Royal Air Force in another trade first and then to take the Pilot entrance exams. While I served I actively took part in a variety of sports: primarily Thai Boxing, Rugby, Fencing, Gym and Football.”
 

What was your injury while serving? Did it affect your mental health and quality of life? 

“It was while I was serving in Iraq that I was hit by Indirect Fire. A rocket came into the base in an attack. I was in the blast radius and a piece of shrapnel tore through my left arm, resulting in an above-elbow amputation. I quickly came to terms with my injury. Finding solutions to daily challenges like tying shoelaces. I didn’t suffer with any negative effects to my mental health. I kept busy and committed to my rehabilitation.” 
 

You mentioned in a BBC Interview recently that Snowboarding was the first sport you tried in your post injury rehab, what role did snowboarding, and sport in general play in your injury rehab? 

“It was only four months after I was injured that I was taken away by BLESMA, a British Limbless Military charity, to Breckenridge to take part in the Hartford Ski Spectacular. Looking back, I know that this was crucial to my long term adjustment to my injury and without being injured I doubt I would of ever even tried Snowboarding. I proved to myself that anything was possible and there was a life after injury.” 

How and why did you get into Para-Cycling and the talent programme?

“I took part in a ParalympicsGB talent ID day at Loughborough University in Nov 2007. I tried a range of sports throughout the day but it was only really cycling that I was interested in. Luckily it worked out because cycling said that I had potential in the sport. I didn’t take it up straight away, I got lost in the system as the squad were gearing up for Beijing Paralympics. I watched the action on the track and said that looked cool, I wanted to try it out. I did another talent weekend at Newport Velodrome in Jan 2009 and after I was invited to join the British Cycling talent programme. Initially I just wanted to do it to get healthy and develop a routine, learn new skills and because I enjoyed it. I never imagined that it would result in a 12 year career.”
 

What was your Para-Cycling journey like throughout your career? 

“I had a great career full of amazing experiences. I was fortunate enough to go to two Paralympic games, one of which was a home games and I have won 4 Paralympic medals. Cycling gave me new challenges and focused my energy in a positive way. I learnt so much about myself during this time, especially after defeats and injuries. I became a better version of myself, more resilient and more determined than ever.” 
 

How and why did you transfer from Para-Cycling to Para-Snowboard?  

“After deciding to retire from cycling I took time out completely from sport. It was only once separated from sport that I realised how important it was in my life. I looked into talent transfer, a UK Sport initiative, for a sport that I wanted to do. Snowboarding was always something that I loved but couldn’t do because it clashed with the cycling season and the risk of injury. After some discussion and a try out session at Chill Factore I decided that the sport and GBS were a good fit and I officially joined the squad this summer”

As an athlete, how much does mental health impact performance? 

“Being mentally resilient is key to executing your best performance on race day. Competitions are a very high pressure environment and you need a good coping strategy in place beforehand.” 

What are your top tips for maintaining good mental health when you’re in stressful or highly-demanding environments? 

“Try and only worry about the things that you can control. You need to try and let go of the small things as you unnecessarily waste energy. Try and only focus on the process, rather than the outcome.”

Are there any things that you do specifically because they’re good for your mental health? 

“Keeping a good routine helps. Do the things that you enjoy, especially the things that release good endorphins. My favourite thing to do is the gym, I always feel better afterwards.”

How much do athletes talk to one another about mental health, in your experience? 

“In my experience athletes need to get better at opening up and off loading. In the past it was common practice to bottle up your emotions, for fear of been perceived as weak. Times are changing and now it is encouraged to speak up and seek help if you need it.”

For more information on world mental health day 2021, visit mentalhealth.org.uk

to find out more about gb snowsport’s commitment to mental wellbeing, see our mental health info hub

After coming from surf to snow, Para Snowboard coach James Sweet does much more than just teach skills to help the GB Snowsport athletes get results.

How and why did you get into coaching?

“Through surfing. I surfed my whole life and it was a good career pathway in Cornwall! One of my first experiences with long term development was with a programme taking young adults from troubled situations and teaching them to surf… some ended up becoming amazing coaches too…. Snowboarding came from surfing, so it was natural to move into the mountains.”

What are your main responsibilities as a coach? 

“I feel that our main role is to create a learning environment where the riders feel happy, safe and able to push their development. When you take on a challenge like this, you aren’t only there to teach and refine skills, moreover you actually all live life together, dealing with all the day to day challenges that face everyone, in whatever form. I’ve really noticed a trend in that once you have put everything in place that an athlete needs, the development and results increase dramatically. This takes time, and it’s something our coaching team and support network are constantly working on. It’s a lot of responsibility, it’s challenging but also extremely rewarding.”

How important is the mental/psychological side of coaching in a modern athlete’s development?

“It’s huge. The mental and physical are so connected that they must be balanced well. Our team faces tough mental challenges daily…. can be anything – such as mental fatigue, break ups, anxiety, dealing with failure, basically an endless list. We work together on creating good routines for competition, by engaging in daily practice which helps the athletes grow stronger…. and we are always there to talk. One of the most common situations we often deal with is an athlete returning from injury, as you might imagine they aren’t just healing the physical form, but also rebuilding confidence to get back on the snowboard, and then compete again… and that is one interesting journey.”

“I personally do tons of meditation!”

How is the new generation of athletes’ expectations of coaching different from what was expected 10 years ago?

“I don’t think the expectations have changed but perhaps the form in which it takes.

“10 years ago snowboarders might or might not have even had a coach. Now we have so much on offer within the team. Discipline specific technical coaches, equipment techs, analysis, physio support, strength training, psychological support and good management, etc. The modern athlete should expect to have access to these things if they are well supported.”

Is analysing competition/training footage useful for athlete improvement and development? If so, has tech like mobile phones and drones made this easier?

“Analysis is a big part of our training. We are always looking at movements and lines. I’m old school, used to having a camera and a TV, so the iPhone for me has been so valuable. I tend to use that on the hill for some instant feedback/learning. Our other coach Karel is a wizard on analysis, he loves to bank footage and run them through amazing analysis apps on the iPad and get super deep… the riders love it, such valuable insights, frame by frame. Years ago you may have been lucky enough to analyse one photo many weeks later, so it’s a huge shift in learning.”

What was the biggest challenge coaching athletes during the most restricted moments last year? How did you manage to maintain a coaching approach with athletes during lockdown?

“The biggest challenge is (and still is) travel. We actually did very well this winter and carefully chose locations that we knew were relatively safe and easy to get to. In fact, Finland gave us special permission to travel there and we stayed most of winter in a fairly ‘normal’ living environment with some nice training opportunities… It’s ever changing and we were lucky like other sports to be able to move around a little bit. During the lockdowns we would sit tight, keep talking to each other and work on something active wherever we could! Staying positive was key.”

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