No mountains, no obstacle for GB’s growing army of snowboarders
British snowboarder Jamie Nicholls made his second Olympic appearance at PyeongChang 2018, competing in the slopestyle and big air events. Though he failed to match team-mate Billy Morgan’s achievement in winning a medal, the Bradford-born Nicholls enjoyed what he described as an “amazing” Games.
Nicholls is a pioneer of British freestyle snowboarding. On 20 March 2016, he became the first athlete from his country to win a World Cup event, triumphing in the slopestyle at Špindlerův Mlýn (CZE). Having taken up the sport at the age of seven, on an artificial ski slope in Halifax, in the north of England, he describes himself on his website as a “British snowboard Olympian, travelling the world on a stand-up sledge.”
He made his Olympic debut at Sochi 2014, where team-mate Jenny Jones won Great Britain’s only medal on the snow, in the women’s slopestyle. Nicholls enjoyed a fine Games nevertheless, qualifying in fourth place in the men’s slopestyle and then placing sixth in the final. On the road to PyeongChang, he scored three World Cup podium finishes in the 2016/17 season, including that victory in Czech Republic.
Nicholls’ development on the global circuit is being matched by the growth of his sport back home, with the country now producing more and more talented freestyle snowboarders and skiers, which as the self-effacing Nicholls explained, is quite an achievement: “We have artificial slopes and indoor centres but no mountains. I could never have imagined I’d one day represent my country in snowboard.”
Explaining what his job involves, Team GB’s ski and snowboarding head coach Hamish McKnight said: “You have to be more than just a technical coach; you have to be a coach for Great Britain. We don’t have 50 kids you can just go and choose five stars from, like the other major nations. We have to push all our talented young snowboarders to the top.”
Scoring 85.50 points on an excellent third run, Morgan took bronze in an event won by Canada’s Sébastien Toutant ahead of the USA’s Kyle Mack. Struggling to hold back the tears, Nicholls said: “It’s amazing. We come from a country with no mountains. It means so much to him and everybody here. It’s incredible. No words!”
Reflecting on a fulfilling Games for himself and Team GB as a whole, Nicholls said: “It’s been long; pretty much a whole month out here in PyeongChang, but I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’m gaining more and more experience every time. Just looking ahead to the future and the possibilities to go into another Games after this one and take the lessons I’ve learned here is really vital.”