18 November 2017Practice makes perfect in Katie Summerhayes' Olympic bid
She may only be 22, but freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes is hoping experience will count for everything during her second adventure at a Winter Olympics later this winter.
The Sheffield skier will head to Pyeongchang as one of Team GB’s leading medal hopes having become a youthful star in the young sport.
Halfpipe was introduced into the Olympic roster for Sochi three years ago and became an instant hit with the craze of tricks and skills through the air.
Summerhayes has been part of a travelling Sheffield party alongside sister Molly and fellow skiier James Woods that have stamped a British identity on the sport against countries more accustomed to snow slopes.
That has meant living on the road for ten months a year for the gang.
But from what may have been a once daunting part of the sport, it is now, in Summerhayes’ eyes, their biggest strength.
I want it to be effortless and look like it’s got style. I try and work on it as much as I can in training. I try and do it 1,000 times and get it right. Katie Summerhayes
“I definitely feel like I am one of the most experienced skiers in the standings,” Summerhayes told The Yorkshire Post.
“So much of our sport is due to weather, and you need to know when to play it smart.
“Being one of the experienced ones, I know when to play it smart and when not to go all out.”
Indeed, Summerhayes has crammed plenty of adventures into her suitcase.
It was six years ago that she announced herself to the young sport of halfpipe – as she reached the world championship final as a fresh-faced 16-year-old.
One year later, her elevation continued with a fourth-placed finish in the worlds while she earned her biggest prize to date at the 2015 competition in Kreischberg, winning silver.
Betwixt the two, Summerhayes had the delight of a first Olympic adventure where she finished seventh in Sochi after falling down the standings going for gold. It was a remarkable achievement not only because of her tender age but because she had spent most of her preparation nursing a damaged cruciate ligament back to full health.
Preparation has been smoother this time around with a summer break from travelling around the world spent at home in Sheffield before two months hitting the slopes in New Zealand.
Summerhayes has soon found herself back in the swing of life out of a suitcase and has spent two weeks honing her skills in Austria ahead of a World Cup meeting next week. In a sport of freedom and creativity, it is perhaps surprising that repetition has been of primary focus.
But practice makes perfect. “I am just trying to keep neat and tidy at the moment,” said Summerhayes. “That’s one of the biggest things, I want to be clean.
“I want it to be effortless and look like it’s got style.
“I try and work on it as much as I can in training. I try and do it 1,000 times and get it right.”
Only 83 days remain before the bright lights will focus on the greatest show on snow in South Korea – and Summerhayes is ticking them off with excitement. “I can’t believe how fast it has come around,” continued Summerhayes, whose love for the event was developed as a youngster on the now-defunct Sheffield ski slopes.
“It doesn’t feel like four years ago we were at the last Olympics.
“I can’t wait for the opportunity and to be part of Team GB again. That’s pretty special in itself. The biggest shock last time around was what you expect from going to your first Olympics. There was no way to prepare for that.
“I have four more years experience. I think that’s definitely what is going to be working in our favour, that we, as the British team, experienced it before.
“We can just focus on the competition this time. We know what to expect going into it.”
The importance of medals in winter sport has a weighted bearing towards National Lottery and UK Sport funding.
But unlike many other sports, the freestyle skiers don’t feel pressure or worries of funding cuts – because whatever happens, they will stick to having fun on the slopes.
For Summerhayes, bettering her achievements from Russia four years ago will mark success, rather than medal targets.
“I just want to do better than last time,” she added.
“As long as I come home at the end of the day feeling happy with my skiing, that’s all that matters.”