British skiing's Pied Piper is a 'one of a kind of dude'

31 December 2013 / 10:56

Pat Sharples is a sports coach with a difference. The closest he'll get to giving the hairdryer treatment is rifling through James Woods' suitcase and he somehow manages to buck convention by being both a mentor and friend to a successful team he proudly dubs his 'Fridge Kids'.

Sharples is viewed as the godfather of British freestyle skiing, starting a series of team camps over a decade ago when Olympic recognition seemed a world away.

He was once dubbed 'the Pied Piper of British skiing' and is the first British coach of any World Cup winner, World Championships and X Games medallist in a ski discipline.

And slopestyle specialist Woods, the skier who delivered those breakthrough medals, is under no illusions about impact of Sharples, whose contribution to his sport was recognised earlier this year by Ski Club of Great Britain.

"He’s the man and he’s been my best mate since I was 12 years old. He took me under his wing and now we’re hopefully off to the Olympics together, it's just amazing," he said.

"He’s got himself a job title now, British head coach for slopestyle and half-pipe and he’s a one of a kind dude. It’s very lucky for me to have him on board and it benefits everyone else on the team, he gives anyone the time of day.

"Pat is always there to talk it all through with, he is another set of eyes on the hill and it's just wicked to have him around. He is from Bradford but he grew up going up to the Alps spending long chunks of time figuring the industry out in Courcheval and doing seasons. 

"People don't know but he's a pretty amazing mogul skier – he was very close to qualifying for the Olympics himself a few years ago but unfortunately got injured before he really had a chance."

Sharples has also guided the career of slopestyle World Cup medallist Katie Summerhayes, fourth at last season's World Championships, and rising halfpipe star Rowan Cheshire, who recently cracked the top ten at a World Cup for the first time.

He brims with belief about their aspirations, though admits future Olympics might be where they really shine and fully deliver on their undoubted podium promise.

“We’re not going to Sochi as underdogs, all the top nations have massive respect for us and our programme," said Sharples.

"It's just a privilege to work with such talented athletes and they are only going to get better and better because they are all so young. 

"Of course, we've got medal potential but I'm just excited about these guys showcasing their skills on the biggest stage. It's going to be a massive opportunity and our guys are ready to fulfil their potential."

© Sportsbeat 2013