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Jamie Nicholls: The making of a Winter Olympian
Professional snowboarder and Team GB athlete Jamie Nicholls, from Queensbury, flies out to Sochi today for the Winter Olympics.
In this interview with Jessica Softley, he looks back on his journey to becoming a Winter Olympian and tells of his growing excitement with the Games just a week away.
Jamie was by no means a regular seven-year-old and after his first lesson as a snowboarder at Halifax Ski Centre, he was hooked.
“There was a group of people on the main slope and I wanted to be with those guys, so I just went for it!” he explained.
And from that moment his parents knew that this was the start of something special as Jamie’s skills on the slope grew every day.
“I would literally pack up all my stuff, get my mum and dad to drop me off and I would just ride, every single day.”
But I don’t think even they could have envisaged this childhood obsession would take him to the absolute pinnacle of sporting competition.
At such a young age, Jamie had to battle the challenges of following his dreams while still at school. Sundays were the only (enforced) day he spent away from the slope.
“I hated Sundays, I just wanted to be at the top of the slope,” he remembers.
“I was completely hooked from day one, I never stopped and I’m still like that now.”
With such a hard core scene already at the Halifax dry slope, Jamie saw his idols riding right alongside him, and snowboarders such as Wayne Taylor helped him grow in confidence and ability.
“They always said they saw potential in me from day one and they just wanted to coach me.
“They helped make me what I am today.”
At the age of just 15, Jamie knew he had the potential to go all the way, competing in every competition the UK had to offer... and winning them.
“I just did so many contests and I was winning pretty much all of them.
“But I never once thought I would be where I am today, flying out to compete in the Winter Olympics.”
Jamie knew it would be a tough road ahead to make it as a professional snowboarder, as he travelled to New Zealand at just 16 years of age without his family.
“It was hard but I knew that this was the life I’d have to deal with if I wanted to make it.
“That was my goal, so I just stayed focused and enjoyed myself.”
As the saying goes ‘behind every great athlete, there is a supportive family’, and Jamie’s family have given him all the support he could have asked for and more.
“I feel like I owe them everything for helping me so much, and I just want to give them something back.”
Despite the Winter Olympics being the pinnacle of snowboarding, Jamie says he feels no pressure to secure a gold medal.
“I just feel that no one is pressuring me and everyone’s said ‘you’re going to be an Olympian no matter what’.
“My aim at the Olympics is to get out there and just have a blast. I just can’t wait to go and experience it.”
Such a prestigious place in the GB slopestyle team does not come without devotion.
While Jamie doesn’t view it as work, there’s no doubting that training a minimum of six days a week from such an early age takes dedication beyond that of your average teenager.
“I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am, putting in so many hours on the slope.
“I’ve reached the highest contest I can get to and I’m just going to have fun and enjoy it.”
Jamie’s infectious enthusiasm for the sport is an inspiration to would-be snowboarders and to any athlete who wants to achieve greatness in their sport.
His unassuming manner and quiet confidence have led him to impressive achievements to date. It would surprise no one who knows him if the young man from Bradford, from a country hardly famed for its skiing resorts, was to beat the odds and return with a medal.
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