One of three Moguls skiing siblings, Makayla Gerken Schofield talks to us about switching off, building tricks, and what it’s like to support her siblings on the slopes
“You know the movie, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble?” Makayla Gerken Schofield, the British Moguls skier, is trying to describe how it feels to be at the top of the slope just before the beginning of a run, and we’re onto a turn-of-the-millennium British film about a Manchester City loving youngster. “There’s a scene where he’s standing the middle of the football pitch and, in his mind he says ‘Jimmy Grimble: kakking his pants!’ – that’s me!”, she laughs, before elaborating. “Honestly, it’s an adrenaline rush. I just wanna hit the course! You’ll normally see me bobbing around to my music, focusing on having fun and, hopefully, be happy with how I skied.”
Talking to Gerken Schofield, you get a sense of constant energy, which is perhaps important for a discipline that involves highly technical skiing, gravity-defying jumps, and courses where the gradient is steep enough that competitors are moving at serious speed from the off. The youngest of three Moguls skiing siblings (her older brother and sister, Thomas and Leonie, are twins), she’s entering her fourth year on the World Cup stage at just 22 years old. How does she think she’s changed since making her World Cup debut?
“I think coming out was a big change for me”, she says, having come out as pansexual in 2020. “I feel more free to be myself, and who I am as a person. It gave me a shift in skiing with my confidence, and I found I was having more fun with it.”
And the results showed, with Gerken Schofield breaking into the top-10 three times in World Cup competitions last season. “I think in those moments I managed to switch mentally that fire that I had in me, and the feeling of determination and just wanting to give it my all. I didn’t focus on the result; I focused on what I had to do first, because at the end of the day that’s the only thing I can control.”
As well as that freedom to be herself, Makayla’s bond with her siblings is a vital part in what makes her such a successful athlete. “I love my siblings to bits,” she says, “we push each other constantly to do better, whether that’s training at home in the gym, or being on skis.” And it’s not just the technical aspects where the siblings’ support for one another is on show. “We’re always there for one another when things do get rough, and although we tend to allow each other to do our thing in to be in the moment, I’ll always give them a hug and remind them to have fun before their run.”
When it comes to acting as the spectator, any sense of calm vanishes. “Watching them is a whole other story!”, Gerken Schofield explains. “I get so nervous, but in a good way! You’ll see me jumping around quite a lot to release the nerves. I’m just super proud of them, no matter what.”
While she’s making a name for herself at the top end of Moguls skiing, away from the slopes Gerken Schofield finds her recovery time is better served disconnecting from the sport. “Weirdly, as an athlete, I don’t tend to follow that much sport actually,” she explains. “When I’m not training or competing, I like to zone out of the skiing world a bit, but it can be tricky because I struggle a lot with the planning. As athletes, we kind of have everything planned out for us in a way, like with training camps and competitions, you’ve got your scheduled times. Planning what to do with your days around that can be tough.”
Perhaps it’s not unhelpful, then, that Moguls requires a lot of time and focus from its athletes. “There’s a lot of repetitions of jumps! When you’re developing a new trick, we start by doing specific exercises on dry land, before progressing them onto a trampoline. Once we’re comfortable enough, and once we’ve got the go-ahead from the coaches, we’ll take it onto the Water Ramps and keep practicing it there. Once it feels good, that’s when we can try to put it down on the snow.”
It’s an approach which isn’t without its challenges, but then that’s Moguls through and through. And with the siblings all back in World Cup action already this season, you can be confident the Gerken Schofields are going to continue making their mark on the sport.
Makayla Gerken Schofield biography
- Born: 1999
- Discipline: Moguls
- Squad: World Cup Squad
- Hometown: Chatel, France
- Top Result: 6th, Deer Valley World Cup Dual Moguls, February 2021