My Olympic Year: Charlotte Bankes

Charlotte Bankes has had five rings on the mind since she was ten and is suitably stoked to take on Beijing 2022 in a Team GB kit as reigning snowboard cross world champion.

Bankes lived in the southern French Alps from the age of four and hopped on an hour's coach ride with club-mates to take in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin.

The intrepid group of young athletes watched Pierre Vaultier, who came through at their club in Puy-Saint-Vincent, go out in the heats.

"It was hard to take it all in when you're so young, the Olympics can be really overwhelming," said the 25-year-old.

"It's a massive event and it's the shop window for our sport. You have to appreciate how special it is for the whole of winter sport to come together in place.

"I'm looking forward to being there under the British flag in 2022."

Vaultier went on from a first-round exit in Italy to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2014 and 2018 - a tale that Bankes may well seek succour from.

After a pelvis injury in 2010, the Hemel Hempstead native battled pain for years and, representing France, didn't make it beyond the quarter-finals in Sochi and PyeongChang. 

Bankes is now relishing the chance to turn over a new leaf in her Olympic story next year.

"Choosing to ride for Great Britain is the best decision I ever took," she said.

"Everyone around me is working towards helping me to feel confident and enjoy being on my board again. That was the big thing that helped.

"I was at the point of wanting to give up the sport, now I'm just enjoying being back on the tour. The hassle isn't there and I'm focusing on my feeling.

"I'm in a great place physically and mentally. I'm really happy to be part of this team."

Bankes took silver at the 2019 World Championships, a tell-tale sign of how a fresh start might unlock her racing potential.

But snowboard cross is as fickle as they come and, flying after a positive pre-season, Bankes came out and finished 28th in her first World Cup race in January.

"The start of this season did not go to plan," she said.

"Going into the World Championships, I hadn't produced for a really long time, I was crashing a lot and not getting the results.

"That's when your confidence goes down and it becomes tougher. It wasn't an easy journey. I had to try to believe in what I was doing, and everything clicked in Idre."

She was the fastest in qualifying at January's World Championships and won all of her knockout races on route to the Big Final.

In a white-knuckle medal run-off, she held on despite a slip on the final jump to win Britain's first snowboard world title - a title Bankes dedicates to the team around her.

"I'm at my best when I'm having fun and racing feels just like training - that's exactly what it was like in Idre," she said.

"It was such an amazing feeling crossing the line, but the best thing was to bring back the medal for the team. It was a medal for the people who helped me enjoy the sport again."

Sportsbeat 2021