30 January 2014An Olympic free spirit: Freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes talks tricks ahead of Sochi
The Winter Olympics (7-23 February) begins later this week, and will see the world’s best skiers, boarders, skaters and snowsports professionals gather in the Russian city of Sochi for a celebration of everything from downhill speed to delicate on-rink pirouettes.
Many stars of the Games will be experiencing their second or third taste of Olympic action – but for 18-year-old Katie Summerhayes, this will be her first time on the biggest stage.
A freestyle skier who specialises in the Slopestyle event – think lots of jumps and tricks – she has an excellent chance of bring home a medal to her native Sheffield.
Here, she sheds a little light on her sport – and reveals her favourite places to hit the slopes…
How does it feel to have been selected for the Winter Olympics?
I’m so happy. It’s a dream come true to represent Team GB at the Olympics.
How did you find out you had made the team?
I saw it on Twitter. Team GB put out a press release online. All very modern.
Your event is Slopestyle. Tell us a little about what it involves…
Slopestyle involves free-rail and free-jumps on a course – but you can do whatever you want with no real rules. It’s not scored on time. You do your tricks, and it’s a matter of how it looks, how difficult the tricks are, and how much style you are able to show. There are five or six judges at each competition, and you have to impress them.
Can a novice get into Slopestyle quite easily, or does it take a lot of hard work?
It’s a bit of both, really. You can start easily, just hitting the smaller jumps and rails. But it takes a lot of falls to improve, a lot of bruises. You have to practice so many tricks.
How did you get started?
I tried a few styles of freestyle skiing – Slopestyle, Half-Pipe, Big Air. Slopestyle just seemed to be the one I was good at, so I carried on.
This is the first time that Slopestyle has been part of the Winter Olympics. Does that bring added pressure?
A bit. But I’m happy that, in thirty years, I’ll be able to say that I was there at the first ever Olympic Slopestyle event. And it’s great that I’ll be one of the people who gets to show it off to the world.
You’ve suffered with injuries over the last couple of years? Has it been difficult?
Yeah, it’s been tough. There were moments when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry on. But I’m happy now that I’m skiing again.
Is a knee injury the worst possible problem for a professional skier?
It’s one of the most common. But it’s the rehab process that really saps you – it takes so long. You have to start with the basics of walking, then jogging, then running, before you can do anything else. That’s the most difficult part.
Do you ever ski for relaxation, or is that too much like work?
Oh, I ski all the time. Even if I have a day off, and even if I’m not training, I go off and ski. It’s so much fun. I ski a lot in the Alps and in America. Anywhere, really.
Where is your favourite place to ski in the Alps?
Probably Mayrhofen in Austria. That’s so much fun. It has a really good snowpark.
What about in the USA?
Probably Breckenridge in Colorado. It has the best snowpark in the world, and so many people go there at the start of the season, so it’s a great place to hang out.
Where do you go on holiday when you’re away from the slopes?
I haven’t been on holiday in 12 years! I’m generally skiing.
Where is your dream destination? If you win gold, where you will go to celebrate?
New York. I just want to see the sights, go shopping, everything.