How a £100,000 'bouncy castle' is helping our PyeongChang hopefuls

How a £100,000 'bouncy castle' is helping our PyeongChang hopefuls

08 December 2017 / 18:51
From a distance it looks like a giant bouncy castle but up close this is a deadly serious business.
Great Britain’s PyeongChang park and pipe hopefuls started training on an exclusive £100,000 air bag this week, buried deep in a mountain in the Italian resort of Livigno.

Forget ‘marginal gains’, this appliance of science is instead being dubbed ‘radical gains’ by team officials.

And, in a sport where boundaries have to be constantly pushed and injuries are part of the process, this could change everything.

“We’ve lost so much sleep over this, so it’s great to get it finally working,” said British Ski and Snowboard’s performance director Dan Hunt, who formerly coached Britain’s cyclists to Olympic success in Beijing and London.

“The absolute gold standard is an on-snow take off with an air bag landing and that’s what we’ve got. It enables us to practice, practice, practice the same tricks. 

“You can accelerate your trick learning and accelerate the time between conceptualising the trick, practising the trick and perfecting the trick. 

“You can take the complexity to another level because you’ve got the safety of the air bag landing. It’s game changing for us, it’s where the rest of the world wants to go but we’re there before them.

“We’ve pushed and pushed and lobbied really hard for this and UK Sport have shown their confidence in us, thanks to lottery players everywhere.”

BillyMorganSochi3200SB14Only two other teams, the USA and New Zealand, have access to similar state of the art facilities in the build-up to the Olympic Winter Games.

British athletes have established themselves as podium regulars on the World Cup circuit, with the likes of snowboarders Billy Morgan, Jamie Nicholls and Katie Ormerod and freestyle skiers James Woods and Katie Summerhayes all looking ahead to  PyeongChang with confidence.

And this airbag facility will enable them to fine hone their preparations away from the glare of competition.

“When you compete, compete, compete you aren’t developing your tricks. Time away from competition allows us to increase that trick complexity and nail things down,” added Hunt.

“At the end of last season we had a lot of very tired athletes managing lots of injuries but we got some breathing space to focus on being the best we can be in February, rather than be exhausted by the time you get to the Olympics.”

What three-time Olympian Lesley McKenna, who made her last Team GB appearance at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, would have given for a similar facility when she was making World Cup podiums.

Now the manager for Britain’s Park and Pipe team, she believes the next two months will see huge improvements in the trick repertoire of those seeking selection for PyeongChang, enabling them to mix it with the best in the world when it really matters.

“We’re in a much better position than we thought we’d be in after our results last season,” she said. 

“This means we can prioritise training over competition, which is a very good place to be. We shouldn’t be turning up to the Olympics burned out because we’ve been competing until virtually the week before. 

“It means we can reset the guys, focus on their tactics and take the stress away. Hopefully these last few weeks won’t be so emotionally draining. 

“I would have killed for something like this when I was competing. The next two months we will be able to progress as much as we normally do in a year. It will be really interesting to see what tricks win the Olympics off the back of having access to these airbags.

“It’s been a huge exercise to set this up. We’re just excited to have it and it could change everything.

“It will be about gaining as much confidence as possible on the toughest tricks, without hurting yourself and the Olympics will be won by those who are pushing the hardest tricks.”

Sportsbeat 2017

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