The British Snowboard Cross sensation is gearing up for her third Olympic Winter Games, and her first in British colours. As we talk to her pre-Beijing, she knows the hard work has been gearing up to this moment.
“That’s how I started when I was young, you know? Just kind of trying to keep up with my brothers. It’s a really easy sport to relate to; I mean, you’re racing down a hill with loads of jumps and fun features, and it’s first to the bottom. It’s just what you’d do with friends or family when you’re a kid.”
Charlotte Bankes is on a roll. The British Snowboard Cross World Champion has been waxing lyrical about the role of the Olympics in inspiring youngsters and, particularly, why Snowboard Cross stands to benefit from having the eyes of the world on it when competition starts out in Beijing.
It’s not, of course, just as a spokesperson for her sport that Bankes is on a roll. On the snow, she’s putting down one of those seasons that athletes dream of: six World Cup races, five podiums, three of which have been on top spot, including two in back-to-back competitions at the World Cup in Krasnoyarsk. All of it a year on from securing her status as the sport’s World Champion, and with what looks like perfect timing with the Olympics looming large. By any standard, it’s a body of results that’s been in the planning for some time.
“Really, it’s just everything coming together,” she explains. “All the hard work we’ve done with the whole team to get that process going, and find that consistency on every run. I don’t think I’ve ever come into the Games with such a good preseason, but it’s something we’ve been working on for a while now. Hopefully all the work we’ve put together, and a lot of the specifics we’ve been working on, will pay off.”
British fans will certainly be hoping so, but it could all have been very different. This won’t be Bankes’ first Olympics experience, after all, but it does mark her first under the British flag having competed in Sochi and PyeongChang as part of the French team. France’s loss is Britain’s gain, though, and Bankes is under no illusion about the importance of the Games to fans back home.
“Yeah, it’s big, and I think because it’s only every four years there’s a massive boost that comes with the Olympics. It’s the event that you know everybody’s watching, and it’s also the one where everyone brings their “A” game.” So, what does that do to her preparations? “Honestly,” she says, “you just need to try and treat it as another race. You need to forget about everything that’s going on around the race, and just focus on putting down consistently good runs. There’s no point thinking about the end result at the start; that’s not how it’s going to work. It’s got to be about the process.”
That process has been built up over time, with efforts really ramping up over the past 9 months to ensure that Bankes, with all her rich talent and race nous, is in the best position possible heading into Beijing. It’s a process she puts down, in part, to the strength of the team environment in the British camp.
“We’re together a lot, obviously with all the travel, so it’s super important that there’s a good relationship there”, she says. For Bankes, there are two people in particular that play a critical role. “The relationship with my coach and my wax teach is so important; they’re the people I rely on and need to trust, of course, but they’re also the ones that know how to get me back into the zone or focusing on the things I need to focus on. We’ve been working together for a while now, and I think that’s part of why it’s all coming together now.”
She also pays tribute to the other athletes in the Snowboard Cross team, as well as the Ski Cross squad, with whom they share some of the early pre-season training. “It brings a bit of a bigger team setting and a good training environment. We really push each other, and that’s such a good thing.” Bankes isn’t the only Snowboard Cross athlete to notice that difference, with 20-year-old Huw Nightingale (“he’s riding really well, right in the mix with the guys – that’s so great to see” is Bankes’ diagnosis) making impressive strides on the men’s World Cup circuit.
🇬🇧 🥇 OH, CHARLOTTE BANKES, YOU ARE AMAZING 🥇🇬🇧
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) December 10, 2021
While she may be big on the team environment in camp, Bankes confesses that when it comes to home support, she’s not the best at keeping in touch. “I’m just not that good at staying in contact!”, she admits. “The thing is, though, I know my family and friends are always there if I need the support. I’m just not that good at calling them!”
And what will that mean while she’s out competing in Beijing? “Well, I know they’ll be keeping up with it all! My parents might be watching through closed eyes, though. Honestly, I think it’s more stressful for them than it is for me riding.”
We’re back on Beijing, and Bankes has high hopes for a good show. “We obviously got out there for the Test event”, an early season World Cup race at the Secret Garden track which will host the Snowboard Cross races, “and that was a good experience. Lots of technical features, and hopefully it’ll make for good racing. There’s space for a lot of overtakes and moves, so hopefully we’ll be able to put on a show. Hopefully that can inspire some young kids to get out there, try it, and have fun. The Olympics inspired me when I was young, and it’s great if it can inspire others too.”
If anything at the Olympics is to inspire, Bankes may well be the one. On form, she’s got a real shot at glory – British eyes will be watching closely.
Charlotte Bankes Biography:
- Born: 1995
- Discipline: Snowboard Cross
- Squad: World Cup Squad
- Hometown: Hemel Hempstead, England
Header Image: Snowboard Cross, Charlotte Bankes for Team GB & GB Snowsport at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on the 6th February 2022 at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China. Photo by Sam Mellish / Team GB.