He was flying down the slope. Ice-cold wind screamed in his ears as his body took on a monumental battle against gravity. Nearly at the bottom, he looked over his shoulder to case-out his advantage and, to his surprise, saw his Grandad catching up.
Mike Rowlands, 20, speaks fondly of his time skiing with his family. His 77-year-old Grandpa John is an avid skiier too, and a good one. His family own a place in Les Alpes and he’s been skiing there for as long as he can remember.
“I was skiing with him last year and me and my sister, Madi, said let’s see how fast we can go down this run backwards and I just absolutely pin it,” he said.
“I’m going down concentrating on not falling over and I turn around and see my grandad tucking in, racing behind me, catching up with me. At the time he was 76.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie through and through. Anything that gets my pulse going I love it, so I think skiing from a young age and always being fairly natural and good at it, it just clicked one day, and I was like: this is real fun. “You could get injured or you could hurt yourself but it’s in your own hands. I like having that control.”
Rowlands wants to rekindle his love for skiing after a highly competitive Olympic cycle last year that saw him narrowly miss out on competing at PyeongChang.
But far from letting it get him down, the experience has only served to fan the youngster’s high hopes for Beijing 2022.
“It wasn’t so annoying to miss out because the level was crazy high this year,” he continued.
“It was more of a wake-up call. Now I’ve got the opportunity to go and really push it and not just scrape in but get in comfortably.
“My aim is to never be set on just getting there, hopefully I’d make the finals. If I can get anywhere near like how Billy Morgan did in PyeongChang I’ll be happy.”
Even with his high hopes, Rowlands is careful about pushing himself too hard. The perils of injury are always prevalent in alpine sports, especially in a discipline that requires participants to perform gravity-defying tricks at high speed.
And it was injury that kept his sister, Madi, out of this year’s Winter Games in South Korea, she suffered a knee injury just weeks before the competition, whilst Mike has also had plentiful scares of his own.
After falling off a rail and injuring his head last year, he’s slowly building up his training to ensure a full recovery.
“I don’t remember a week of my life,” he said.
“The memory has not come back at all. When I got home, I was watching TV with my sister and my friend in the front room.
“I got up to make a cup of tea and I came back in the room and said to my friend: “When did you get here?” He picked me up from the airport. It was a scary one.”
He says his sister, Youth Olympic medallist in Halfpipe and Slopestyle, was vital in his recovery and is now more of a friend than a sister.
The siblings were brought up in Kent and Mike grew up skiing on the dry slope around the corner from where they lived.
At 14, he started training at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. It’s here he says his real training began.
“If it wasn’t for The Snow Centre I wouldn’t have got as good at rails. That’s what the whole aspect of being a ‘dome kid’ is,” said Rowlands.
“You’re good at the little technical things. If it wasn’t for them I would have been a lot further behind than where I am today.”
“Madi got into skiing because I was doing it and she kind of just followed me like a puppy. It worked out pretty well for her, she’s got two Youth Olympic medals.”
Even though Rowlands has his sister to help him cope with his gruelling training schedule, he says it's still difficult to balance being a ‘normal’ 20-year-old with his training.
But, with his Beijing dreams keeping him on the straight and narrow, Rowlands is managing just fine.
“It is hard,” he continued.
“Sometimes you have to go well, I could go to the pub and get drunk but I’m going to go to the gym instead and train and it is hard, especially when you’re a bit younger.
“Sixteen to 18 is the crucial time that decides whether you’re going to get good at skiing or not and it’s quite hard to make the decision between your social life or pursuing skiing. I’m happy I pursued skiing.” Sportsbeat 2018