After taking up freestyle skiing at the age of eight, Katie Summerhayes has since emerged as one of the sport’s brightest talents. Here, she recalls her first taste of Olympic action at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012.
Talks us through your experiences competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012.
It was a very surreal experience. It was the first Winter YOG to be staged, so everyone competing was pretty stoked and happy to be there. I loved being part of Team GB and hanging out with loads of other people from different sports in the Olympic Village. I still look back on my experiences at the YOG. It was such a great time.
Did competing at YOG 2012 make things easier for you at the Winter Olympic Games Sochi 2014 as you knew what to expect?
Before competing at YOG, none of us had any clue of what went on at a Winter Olympic Games. We got a taste of that in Innsbruck; we all stayed at the Olympic Village, we all ate in the food hall together, we shared rooms with other people. I definitely had an idea of what to expect going into Sochi.
You carried the flag for Great Britain at YOG 2012. How did that make you feel?
I didn’t expect it at all; the whole of Team GB had a vote, and I ended up getting picked to carry the flag. Being chosen to do this by my fellow teammates was such an honour.
Tell us a little bit about the Culture and Education programme during YOG 2012.
There were lots of things to do at the Culture and Education sessions when we weren’t training or competing. I did the avalanche training, which was very handy as a freestyle skier. You have a lot of time to yourself when you’re not training or competing, so I think having that programme in place is a very useful distraction.
Who have been your biggest inspirations in your career?
The inspiration for me has definitely been my coach Pat Sharples. He’s been coaching me since I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first started training, and has been with me all the way to the Olympics. (British skier) James Woods is another inspiration. I’ve been skiing with him since I was 7 years old, so to see him succeed and know that I’ve been training with him has been amazing.
You went through a tough period shortly after YOG 2012 when you suffered a serious injury. How did you find the motivation to make it to Sochi?
I tore my anterior cruciate ligament in 2012. I was only 16 when it happened, and with all the rehab you have to go through to recover it was tough work. I love skiing that much I just couldn't wait to get back on my skis. My injury was the only thing that was holding me back from competing at Sochi; I’d made the qualifying criteria and wanted to be there so bad, so I worked extra hard to make it. Thankfully, it all paid off.
How are your preparations going ahead of the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018?
I’m currently competing in World Cup qualifiers, and those results count towards qualification for PyeongChang. So much has happened in the sport in the past three years and we’ve still got another year until the Olympics. It’s exciting to see where this sport is going. Being there again would be such a great opportunity; I just want to be the best I can, and learn as many new tricks as I can.
Your schedule involves a lot of travelling as you compete all over the world. What is the one item you can’t travel without?
I’ve got two actually. The first one is my phone. It’s so important for me when I’m travelling: for music, movies and getting in touch with family and friends back home. I haven’t been home for a while now, so it’s the only thing I have to be able to get in touch with them. My second one is my skis – I’d find it difficult to compete without those!
Diet is key for any top-level sportsperson. Could you give us a little insight into your daily meals?
I usually go for poached eggs for breakfast – my favourite – and some toast, which is a good start. Then for lunch I normally take a sandwich up the mountain, then I have a bit more lunch when I finish skiing at around 3 o’clock. The team is a massive fan of burritos, so we have lots of those, and I really like slow-cooked food; I love chillis, so I have that cooking all day and then tuck in when I get in at night.
If you had any advice for young athletes who are preparing for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, what would it be?
I’d say keep having fun doing what you’re doing. That’s the most important thing, and that way you’ll learn more. Training hard is important as well, of course!