Britain’s sole Aerials World Cup athlete, Lloyd Wallace, takes time out from pre-season training to talk injuries, family, and the importance of perspective
“What you have to remember is that the safest way to do a new trick is to commit to it properly. Aerials, done badly, is dangerous and there are no half measures.”
Lloyd Wallace, Britain’s sole World Cup level Aerials skier, is describing the process that leads to an athlete adding a new trick to their repertoire. When it comes to understanding the dangers of the sport, he would know: just over four years ago, a 22-year old Wallace found himself placed in an induced coma when an accident in training left him unconscious in a pool of water. Incredibly, the speed of his recovery saw him back on the snow in time to represent the country just six months later at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. But the experience left him a changed man.
“I was very aware of how lucky I had been, and very aware that after skiing I didn’t have a plan to fall back on,” he explains. “After the Olympics, I was tired. I needed a break from the sport to figure out the rest of my life.” So, Wallace took the break he felt he needed. A return to the University of Bath to study for a Masters, and a job that he “sort of fell into” as a sports agent. But then, the itch returned.
“I had two years to reflect on my skiing career, and it gave me some important perspective on why I chose to get started in Aerials in the first place: it was because I loved it. I gave me so much enjoyment and satisfaction, and I lost track of that through the training, the injuries, and qualifying for the Olympics.”
It wasn’t just the fun of it that got Wallace into Aerials at the start, though. His family, in many ways, are Olympic royalty. “If it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be here talking to you about Aerials today”, he explains. “Mum and Dad both competed at the Olympics for GB in Freestyle skiing. Mum’s the most successful British World Cup skier in any Olympic discipline, and Dad was the British team coach for years.”
And the connections to the Olympics run deeper still. “I feel honoured to follow in the footsteps of a dynasty of GB Olympians on both sides of my family. My grandfather, Peter Curry (3000m Steeplechase, London 1948) and my uncle, Shaun Wallace (Track Cycling, Los Angeles 1984, and Atlanta 1996) as well as my parents all represented the nation. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to say I’ve done that too.”
TPE Curry (1921-2010) 70 years ago today was the opening ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games. My grandfather represented @TeamGB in the 3000m steeplechase, in doing so he started a family legacy of Olympians that has lasted 3 generations 👊🏼 #olympics #london1948 #legacy pic.twitter.com/pzsvAyyTVY
— Lloyd Wallace OLY (@Lloyd_Wallace) July 29, 2018
Family clearly plays an important part in Wallace’s life and career, and Lloyd’s father, Robin, is among his most enthusiastic supporters on social media. Does he still get input from them on his performance? “I do! I still get tips from them today. Even as a kid I was learning how to deal with the fear and the pressure, and for the first four years of my career, Mum and Dad coached me and my sister. We were a family team. The wealth of knowledge I’ve gained from them, it’s just crazy to think about.”
It might all have taken a different path, if Wallace had followed his original sporting successes further. “I competed at national level in gymnastics until the age of 13; it gave me the important acrobatic and physiological foundations I needed to succeed in other sports.” Amid the developments and the successes, though, there were hard moments. “It was awesome – although there are good and bad memories. Training 20 hours a week as a child was tough. I didn’t have much free time to try other sports or hang out with friends.” A change in schools at 13 led to a change of paths. “I wanted to try every other sport I possible could: rugby, tennis, cricket, so many more. It meant that gymnastics had to stop.”
As he talks more about his career and his growth as an athlete, it becomes clear that every step in Lloyd Wallace’s journey has led him to this point; a point that seems him in perhaps the form of his life, with the final competition of the season seeing him grab the second-best result of his career, a 9th placed finish at the 2021 World Cup Finals.
But for all the planning – the gymnastics and acrobatics foundations, the ski holidays from childhood, the family role models – the journey hasn’t been easy. Not only the injury; funding, too.
“Aerials can be overlooked as it’s seen as such a minor sport, and I’ve always had to cut corners in my training”, he explains.
But last month, the picture changed a touch, with UK Sport announcing a new tranche of funding into Aerials from the Beijing Support Fund. “It’s absolutely brilliant news for my season. It means I’ll be able to attend all the essential Olympic Qualifying events in the best shape possible, without worrying about how I’m going to afford it. And it’s had a big impact on my mindset too. I’ve always known I’ve got what it takes to push for the top spots, and it’s awesome to know that all the hard work I’ve put in is getting recognised back home, and that I’ve got the backing and the encouragement of the nation.”
That encouragement is only going to increase if, as expected, Wallace steps out to become a double Olympian this winter in Beijing, something he calls “an absolute privilege”.
And if all goes well, what’s the piece of advice that will be at the front of his mind in those seconds before he hurtles down the ramp towards the jump? “Well…I think my favourite tip from my parents was this: just before your competition jump, remember to smile. You’re there to have fun.”
Lloyd Wallace is having fun now. And he’s got the nation right behind him.
Lloyd Wallace Biography
- Born: 1995
- Discipline: Aerials
- Squad: World Cup Squad
- Hometown: Shaftesbury, UK
- Top Result Last Season: 9th, World Cup Final, 2021
- Top Career Result: 7th, World Cup Deer Valley, 2016
Header Image: Lloyd Wallace, 2020, Photo by Alexey Shabanov