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Jamie Nicholls lends a helping hand to snowboard legend Shaun White
If revered snowboarder Shaun White is to achieve his goal of winning double Olympic gold, he may be grateful for the help given to him by British rival Jamie Nicholls.
The American is the overwhelming favourite to become a three-time Olympic champion in the halfpipe discipline, having won gold in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver 2010, and with slopestyle set to make its debut in Sochi, with the qualifiers this morning, White is looking to further cement his legacy.
Indeed, such is his determination to top the podium in both disciplines he opted to skip the prestigious Winter X Games for the first time this century, an event he has dominated for over a decade, winning 13 gold medals, three silvers and two bronzes.
White has not enjoyed as much success in slopestyle recently, however, and has been working with Queensbury's Nicholls, who has also benefited from the 27-year-old's experience, at a ski resort in Colorado in an effort to boost his chances at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
"Shaun's doing slopestyle and halfpipe, he's going to be going for it. He wants that double gold," said Nicholls.
"I know him pretty well. I've just been training with him a little bit out in Copper Mountain. We had a day training there, there was just me and him. Sleds, private park, it was really fun.
"I've actually been helping him with the rail tricks. He's been helping me on the jumps and I've been helping him with the rails, so we've been doing each other a favour. We're good friends."
White will be one of the star attractions in Sochi and, although he has shortened the flowing ginger locks that earned him the nickname 'the Flying Tomato', he will be aiming to show he has lost none of the lustre that has marked him out as one of the greatest snowboarders of all time.
By contrast, Nicholls will be happy just to make his mark and has no plans to go into his shell after earning his place at Sochi in the slopestyle event alongside fellow Briton Billy Morgan.
"I'm just happy to get to the Olympics. For two of us from Great Britain to be going from the men's is a big thing," Nicholls said.
"My aims out there will probably be to land my run, get to the finals and then when I get to the finals, just go for it and go all out. If I fall at least I know I went all out.
"There's no point going to the Olympics and doing a safe run, everyone can land their safe run. It's anybody's game out of that top 30- everyone's got potential to get a medal, so we'll be all going for it."
The 20-year-old from Bradford began his career at Halifax Ski and Snowboard Centre on the increasingly popular dry slopes that are popping up all over Britain and has, by his own admission, come a long way since then.
"I never really expected to get anywhere from it, I just did it because I really enjoyed doing it with my friends and I still do now," Nicholls said.
"I still love going snowboarding even on bad weather days. I still treat it exactly as I did when I was younger, even though it's my career now, but it's definitely been a long journey, I've done so much since then and I've come a long way.
"It's so natural. I could have a year off and I'd just go back to it and be at the same standard probably as I just left off.
"I don't find it scary at all to snowboard any more. It's normal."
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