Summerhayes blazes slopestyle trail for Britain
Katie Summerhayes used her experience at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012 as a springboard to set a number of British freestyle skiing benchmarks.
“I started skiing when I was six, here at the Sheffield Ski Village,” writes Katie Summerhayes (GBR) – a native of the Yorkshire city – on her personal website. “I fell head over heels in love with the sport! I’ve been skiing for as long as I can remember. I tried freestyle at the age of eight, while continuing to enjoy Alpine and mogul skiing. I took part in my first competition at nine, and that’s when I realised it was what I wanted to do with my life.”
During adolescence, the burgeoning skier began to make her mark in slopestyle on the international circuit, and it came as no surprise when she was selected for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Innsbruck 2012, where she carried the flag for the British team at the Opening Ceremony. “I was so happy! You could feel that magical aura you get at the Olympic Games. Wearing the Team GB kit with the five rings was fantastic and being there with everyone else was just amazing,” she recalls.
As her speciality, slopestyle skiing, did not feature on the YOG programme, she chose to compete in the half-pipe. “I was 16, and my team thought I could do well in the event, so I trained really hard so as to familiarise myself with it. A lot of the tricks are similar but you ski differently. It was still a very cool experience, and I was so proud to represent my country,” says Summerhayes, who sealed a creditable fifth place in Innsbruck.
For the young freestylist, the final result was not the most important aspect, however. “You learn how the Youth Olympic Games work, and how they offer the ideal preparation for the senior Winter Games. You perform in front of bigger crowds than you have ever before, and you have to take that in your stride. You think to yourself, ‘My goodness, there’s going to be a lot of people watching on TV back home’, and you realise that you’re competing at a major event.
“All of it is aimed at ensuring that you get used to the way the Olympic Games work. When I arrived in Sochi, I was a bit overwhelmed, but thanks to my time in Innsbruck, I was able to handle it better. It’s so useful for young athletes, because it gets you ready for what lies ahead.”
A year prior to Sochi 2014, the British competitor had already achieved a breakthrough result for British freestyle skiing at Silvaplana (SUI), claiming second place in an FIS World Cup slopestyle event on 8 February 2013. The following month, she finished third in the Junior World Championships in Chiesa in Valmalenco (ITA).
At the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, during the Sochi games, Summerhayes qualified for the slopestyle final and eventually finished seventh, before returning to Chiesa In Valmalenco, where she was crowned world junior champion on 3 April 2014. Her historic exploits extended into January 2015, when she remarkably came second at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Kreischberg (AUT).
“I work hard. When I’m in the UK, I go to the gym every day, I ski indoors and I do trampoline work. And then I travel far and wide with Team GB for nine months of the year, skiing for four to five hours every day,” explains Summerhayes, whose star has continued to rise since Innsbruck 2012. “We all get on really well together; I’m so happy to be able to do what I do. I want to appear on more podiums and eventually win an Olympic medal, but also to promote this sport that I love so much.”