No regrets for freestyle skier Harding as he targets Olympic final
Freestyle Skiing

No regrets for freestyle skier Harding as he targets Olympic final

17 February 2018 / 16:00

If Tyler Harding's dad Robbie had his way, the Halifax man would be making his Olympic debut on a snowboard on Sunday.

Instead he will strap on two skis and flip and trick his way down the Phoenix Park slopestyle course, looking to transfer career-best form onto the biggest stage of all.

It's been a long journey to this point for 21-year-old Harding who started out at Halifax Ski Centre as a four-year-old with his dad carrying him up the slope on a snowboard before running down to catch him at the bottom.

Harding junior was too small to go on the lift himself but as he got older, and bigger, it became increasingly difficult for his dad to carry him up and down. That's when skiing took over.

“He tried to get me snowboarding first because he is a snowboarder so obviously it was a bit cheeky of him as he wanted me to snowboard with him,” recalls Harding.

“I enjoyed it but I got to the point where I was five years old and I was still not big enough to go on the lift at Halifax. But I was a bit bigger so it was harder for him to take me up the slope. 

“We were going to Bulgaria for a ski holiday and I wasn't good enough yet on a snowboard. So he put me in ski school and I loved it.

“I razzed around for a whole week and a half, when I got back I said I didn't want to be a snowboarder.”

It proved to be a wise decision with Harding progressing through the ranks under the guidance of current GB Park and Pipe head ski coach Pat Sharples and placing tenth in the halfpipe event at the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Olympic Games. 

But after just missing out on qualification for Sochi 2014, Harding's upward curve took a hit as he badly damaged his anterior cruciate ligament, causing him to spend a year away from the sport.

“It was the most soul crushing experience. I had already done the ACL in my left knee so I knew what it was immediately,” he said.

“But it made me quite mentally tough now. All the rehab and that sort of stuff has made me get into gym at a young age, be strong and know the ins and outs of what to do. How your body should be functioning and how you can make your body function at the highest level.

“I would say I haven't had a long term injury in about three years. I've not had more than two weeks out of skiing in that time and I feel amazing coming into these Olympics, the best I ever have.”

As if to back up his point, Harding registered a career-best eighth at the Font Romeu slopestyle World Cup in December and is targeting the finals in PyeongChang.

"The run that I think I'm going to put down is easily a finals run," he said. "But it's just about being able to put it down.

“I think the run I want to do, I can't really change it around enough to make it a safe run. But it's a run that I am confident I can land. It's not too safe but it's also not too risky.”

Sportsbeat 2018