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Introducing the snowboard cross speed freak

Australia’s Jarryd Hughes has long been obsessed by going fast. In 2016 Hughes became the youngest-ever Winter X Games gold medallist and is also, to date, the youngest ever boardercross athlete to reach world No.1. Having claimed silver at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the 23-year-old chats about his love for adrenaline-fuelled sports, his childhood on wheels and his plan to set the record straight at the 2019 World Championships. 

You have the 2019 World Championships in Park City, USA, in February and, after finishing 11th in 2013, 31st in 2015 and 34th in 2017, do you feel you are owed a bit of luck?

I have never liked the word ‘luck’. There was an advert years ago that said, ‘You only get out what you put in’ – it is so corny but I have always loved that saying. I don’t think I am owed anything, but I have worked very hard so I can be one of the best, if not the best, in this sport. The World Championships are a massive aim for this year. Winning a crystal globe would be amazing as well, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I want to put my best foot forward at every race. If I am in it, I want to win it. I want everyone there having their best day so I can sit there at the end and say, ‘I beat you on your best day’.

Has life changed much since that silver medal-winning run at PyeongChang 2018?

Yes and no. I certainly get to do a lot more fun things with my time off. I get to go to some really cool events, like I went to the Formula 1 in Melbourne. I did the grid walk, which was amazing. I somehow ended up with a paddock pass as well so I could go into the drivers’ area. I got to see a bunch of the drivers and meet them very briefly. And I got to literally touch some of the F1 cars. I was freaking out.

Fair to say you are a bit of a speed freak?

Those F1 cars are a special breed. It was crazy how just touching them excited me so much. It was cool to see Lewis Hamilton and Dan Ricciardo and people like that, but it was the cars that really did it for me. We have a lot of downtime while we are travelling and I spend a lot of time on YouTube researching Formula 1 and listening to all the stuff that is going on, looking into all the aero-dynamic changes they are making – they do really cool graphics about it – but then seeing it in person was really cool. People were really surprised when I knew what I was talking about.

Jarryd Hughes Getty Images

And what about in training, has the medal changed your approach at all?

Having the medal behind you gives you a bit more security in (controlling) the training you want to do. For instance, I am very passionate about incorporating things into training that I really enjoy and my governing body (Ski & Snowboard Australia) were a lot more accepting of the fact that I was going to do that as part of my training for boardercross after I got the medal.

Jarryd Hughes Getty Images

Your parents run two skate parks in and around Sydney; did you get your love for high-speed, high-octane sport from them?

Not really. My dad was a second-grade rugby player and my mum was a netballer, same sort of level. They both worked in IT and then Dad got into skateboarding through my snowboarding. The only reason they do action sports now is because of me I guess. Dad really finds it enjoyable. We run camps and he runs my snowboarding programmes. He is heavily involved in Skate Australia and BMX Australia.

Are you often to be found out on a skateboard or a BMX bike, then?

Absolutely. Some of my best friends are Australia’s best BMX riders and skateboarders. I grew up with Brandon Loupos (international BMX star). I end up riding with my mates and they have some of the best bikes in the world, which is cool. I get to share my time around all these sports I love, which is really lucky.

Jarrryd Hughes Getty Images

Was there a time you thought about being a skater rather than a boarder?

Well, for one thing, I am not as good at skateboarding as I am at snowboarding. And I started snowboarding first and skateboarding was then just to train for snowboarding. I am not the best skateboarder in the world by any means.

And what about now – is there another sport that you would be tempted to try and compete in professionally?

When I was growing up my mum was always worried about me getting hurt in snowboarding and I was like, ‘That’s OK, Mum, if you don’t want me to snowboard, I’ll go play rugby’. I always wanted to do that for the Wallabies. I’d love to drive a Formula 1 car as well, but they would never let me. 

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