Ski halfpipe champion James Machon hopes to be on the podium in Sochi
British ski halfpipe champion James Machon is hoping that his Olympic Solidarity Scholarship will help propel him onto the podium when the sport makes its Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games
How did you get started in ski halfpipe?
I learned to do basic tricks on a dry slope halfpipe at Sheffield Ski Village, in the UK in 2004. It was the only artificial halfpipe in the world at that time and was only 20 minutes from my house, so I skied after school in the evenings. The halfpipe walls were around 10ft high, compared to the walls of a snow halfpipe, which are 22ft (6.7 metres) high. In 2006, I went to the British Championships in Laax, Switzerland and competed in all the freestyle events. This was the first time I had skied a real snow halfpipe, which was pretty intimidating, but I loved it and I was addicted from there.
When did you realise that you had the talent to compete at the elite level?
I was training on the halfpipe at Copper Mountain, USA, one day as a rookie and there were lots of professionals there when I tried my first unnatural 900 [a backwards aerial spin with two-and-a-half rotations]. I remember being really scared but I landed it first time. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but afterwards a few professionals came up to me and told me it took them years to learn. Learning new tricks has always come naturally to me, so this gives me confidence to believe in myself to continue to compete at the elite level.
What has been your greatest sporting achievement so far?
Being ranked in the top 15 on the AFP [Association of Freeskiing Professionals] world ranking at the start of the Olympic qualifying season. I have also won the British Halfpipe Championships for four consecutive years, which has never been done before.
What would it mean to you to compete at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games?
It would be incredible, particularly after the success of London 2012. Also, Sochi will be the first Winter Games to host the halfpipe skiing event. I can’t imagine anything better; it would be the best feeling in the world to land a good run there.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career and why?
Before the GB Freeski team was founded, I trained for years with renowned freeski coach Elana Chase. Her coaching had a huge influence on the level of my halfpipe skiing; it was definitely a turning point in my ski career.
How has your Olympic Solidarity Scholarship helped you?
It has really helped me this year with financial support. In previous years, I’ve had to work through the summer so I can ski in the winter. The Olympic Solidarity Scholarship has allowed me to focus 100 per cent on training all year round, which is what’s needed to compete at the elite level. I’m really grateful for their support and it’s made a massive difference to my career.
What is a typical training week like for you?
On a weekly basis I see a physiotherapist and a strength and conditioning coach, and I’m in the gym most days. Currently I’m in rehab for a knee injury and my focus is to make my body as strong as possible so I can complete my Olympic qualification. Balancing skiing, trampolining, strength and conditioning and injury prevention all together is a full-time job, but the best weeks are when I’m on snow.
Do you have a pre-competition routine that you follow?
I always wax my own skis, and wear my newest pair of ski socks. I have a warm-up routine and then do some practice runs. At the top of the halfpipe while waiting to compete, I listen to music and visualise my competition run. When I’m about to drop in, I turn on my competition tune, which is a hip-hop track. I always compete to this track as it gets me in the zone.
Who are your sporting heroes?
Jessica Ennis, the heptathlon gold medalist at London 2012. She is a great role model and a big sporting hero. She is also from my hometown, Sheffield, and her achievements in athletics give me motivation towards achieving my goals in Sochi in 2014 and beyond.
Do you use social media networks?
Yes, of course. I like to use Twitter and Instagram. I see some amazing places through skiing, which I want to share with everyone. Networking is great to showcase freeskiing to a wider audience. I hope my updates and achievements in skiing inspire others to believe in their dreams and achieve great things.
Would you like to know more about Ski Halfpipe?
Kevin Rolland tells you all about it in the following video: