Freestyle skier Tyler Harding admits the pressure will be off this season as he looks to build back up to full fitness on the slopes.
Harding was part of the 24-strong team selected to represent Team GB at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck back in January 2012.
It was an experience that the 18-year-old admits will live long in the memory, although his performance in the boys halfpipe competition was hindered by a back injury sustained in practice, leaving him finishing the final in tenth place.
Since then Tyler has been busy getting experience under his belt, including finishing third in the rookies section at the 2012 Austrian Freeski Open and 15th on only his second-ever World Cup start in the men’s slopestyle final in Sierra Nevada last year.
However disaster struck earlier this year when he over-rotated during a competition and ruptured his right anterior cruciate ligament – the second time he had suffered such an injury after sustaining the same damage to his left leg aged 15.
After a careful rehab period, Halifax-born Harding is nearing a return to skiing action but he insists he won’t be rushing back to competition too soon, with the larger picture in mind.
“I just want to get back and get back in the rhythm. I just want to practice as much as possible, I’m going to practice rather than worry about competitions,” he said.
“It’s a case of waiting for competitions this time next year so using this year as training to get myself back to where I was before and improve on that as well.
“It’s a tough thing being injured. It happens, it’s totally out of the blue and you can’t really stop it sometimes. It’s part of the sport. You’ve got to get over it, continue with it and work as hard as you can to get back.
“I took part in the first Youth Olympics in 2012. It was so good. It was amazing. It can’t live up to the real Olympics but in terms of different people, different cultures, different countries, it was one of the best times of my life even if the performance did not go as well as I wanted.
“I’ve had a lot of people telling me that I could go all the way, that I could go to the Olympics. The coach has got high hopes for top three at the Olympics but that’s only what you can hope for. For me I’m just going to keep trying as much as I can to get up there and so as much as I can.”
Harding was a keen spectator as slopestyle made it’s debut at Sochi 2014, with snowboarder Jenny Jones claiming a dramatic bronze.
World champion and British teammate James Woods also just missed out on a medal when he finished fifth in the ski slopestyle event and Harding believes the future is bright for the country.
“I watched Sochi from home. I was waking up at 6am to watch my friends do it. It was so cool watching everyone do it because everyone did so well,” he added.
“Team GB passed all expectations. Now we’ve got a lot more funding, so we’re getting a lot more help from outside sources.
“The ski scene right now for GB is booming, I’m really excited about it, we’ve just to go keep pushing on, we’ve got to keep looking forward to the next one in Pyeongchang.”
© Sportsbeat 2014