After covid slammed the breaks on a fast-developing career, Connie Brogden’s back with a new awareness of what matters
“It was really tough. Even just entering the pandemic in the first week, I was already having such a hard time.” Connie Brogden’s reflecting on the challenges she faced when covid restrictions threw life off course in 2020. Still just 19 years old (her 20th birthday is approaching, on New Year’s Eve), the Connecticut born British freeskier had just made her first strides onto the World Cup circuit when the emerging pandemic brought competition to a halt.
Up to that point, Brogden’s career had seen a more or less unbroken upward trajectory. Promising results on the junior stage generated a buzz, before she broke her way into public awareness with a stunning victory in the 2019 Junior World Championships in Switzerland at just 17. Her overriding reaction to that victory? Surprise.
“I was more in shock than anything!”, she recalls. “During the event I was just focused on putting down the best run I physically could. My adrenaline was really pumping, and when I found out I had won, I was so pumped I actually forgot to call my mum and dad to tell them. They had to find out by looking at the scores later that day!”
As it turns out, the best run she could put down was something seriously impressive, including one of her first nine hundreds in competition. It was a victory that served as a marker that Brogden possesses some serious talent.
What an incredible weekend it’s been for @GBSnowsport athletes 🇬🇧!
🏆 Connie Brogden – Junior World Champion
🥇 @jaztelemark – World Cup Winner
🥉 @JamesWoodsy – @XGames Bronze medalist
Read more: https://t.co/H2y8UoIrww#GoBeyond pic.twitter.com/1joPPOOWzi
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) January 28, 2019
What followed was a host of increasingly impressive performances, including FIS, National Championships and NorAm podium finishes, and a World Cup debut later that same year in Mammoth in the US. Behind the scenes, though, Brogden was struggling without knowing why.
“Prior to covid, I was suffering from anxiety on my own,” she says. “I had no idea what it was or that I actually had it.” And then the pandemic struck. “Going into lockdown made it much worse and made it too tough to keep ignoring.”
It’s a cloud which had a distinct silver lining, with the forced stop leading to a diagnosis which gave her the opportunity to address and manage the challenges she was acing. “After being diagnosed with anxiety and mental health struggles I was able to get my mental health under control and focus on doing tings that I love. During the pandemic I was forced to stop skiing, but it was honestly a good thing for me to take a break. Being forced into a break it was something I really needed for my mental health. It made me realise that you do have to prioritise not just your physical health to be able to compete, but also your mental health. Just as much, if not more.”
Like many of her generation, Brogden is a prolific – and talented – user of social media. It’s something she puts down to the community involved in freeskiing. “In the freeskiing community, social media is huge,” she explains. “It’s a way for skiers to share what they’re working on, be creative, even meet each other.”
As she describes her social media use, it’s clear that she’s talking about something that’s deeply philosophical for freestyle sports. “Skiing’s not just about competing all the time,” she says. “It’s also about bringing the sport forward and progressing it, and the way to progress the sport is to bring new tricks and new style into the park. It allows people to not just compete in competitions, but also online with each other, about who can do the newest trick or the most stylish trick. It really breaks down the limits.”
While she’s good at finding community online, Brodgen’s equally adept at doing so within the British team, and she picks out Katie Summerhayes as one of the individuals that she really looks up to.
“I had just started park skiing and remember watching the 2014 Sochi Olympics and seeing a girl from the UK [Summerhayes] competing. At such a young age, it was inspiring to me. Now, being on the team and spending time on trips with the team, she’s someone I really look up to.
“Being around Katie really motivates me; she has such a love for skiing, and she does it because she loves it.”
It’s a philosophy that resonates for Brogden. “Skiing is meant to be fun, and Katie definitely helps me see that. I really look up to her.”
Post-covid, things seem to be getting back on track for Brogden. After a gap of almost a year from competition, she was back on snow to record a pair of podium finishes at the Copper Mountain National Championships in March, and took 13th and 15th positions in the World Ski Championships and World Cup in Aspen later that same month. And while a concussion has delayed the beginning of her 2021/22 season, she’s got a few new tricks up her sleeve, including hopefully her first double “probably a dub flat 900” and “some bigger switch tricks, and working on my left cork 900”.
The world had better be ready: Connie Brogden’s coming back strong.
Connie Brogden Biography:
- Born: 2001
- Discipline: Freeski
- Squad: World Cup Squad
- Hometown: Riverside CT, USA
- Best World Cup Result: 11th, Freeski Slopestyle, 2020 Mammoth World Cup
Header Image: Connie Brogden