Snowboarder Ben Kilner is not a safety first kind of guy. In a sport where the margins between being a champ and looking a chump are razor-thin, he is willing to risk it all for Olympic success.
Kilner, who specialises in the thrills and spills halfpipe discipline, is preparing to start his World Cup season but has next year’s Olympic Games in Sochi firmly in his sights.
He has already achieved the two top-20 World Cup finishes he needs to secure selection but must maintain his place in the world’s top 40 before his spot is finally confirmed next January.
Four years ago Kilner reached the semi-finals as a 21-year old Olympic rookie – and admitted he needed to work on his range of tricks to be competitive with the world's best.
And he believes his hard work and punishing training schedule is starting to pay off.
“The quality of the men’s halfpipe at the Olympics will be ridiculous, it will probably be one of the most competitive events at the entire Games,” he said.
“It’s a total gamble deciding who will be at the top and who will be at the bottom; it’s so hard to call. You just can’t hold back.
“In Vancouver lots of people just went for it and ended up failing with their runs. It’s better to have risked it all.
“I would much rather land my run at the full potential I possibly can and qualify for the final than not take any risks, land a mediocre run and not qualify.”
Kilner is only 25 but he is one of the most experienced international competitors in a youthful British ski and snowboard team that have plenty of medal hopes in Sochi.
Fellow snowboarder Billy Morgan, who competes in the slopestyle discipline, climbed the World Cup podium last season while freestyle skier James Woods won silver at the World Championships and claimed the overall World Cup title in his event.
But Kilner insists nothing will prepare these rookies for what awaits next year.
“It’s good to have experienced the Olympics before, that will certainly help me,” he added.
“The biggest thing is the distractions and all the things that go on around you. You can easily get caught up in the event and forget the reason you are there is to compete.
“When you are competing, you just need to block it all out and focus. If you stop and look around too much you will see all the people, the cameras, the media and the spotlight and realise what a big event it is. It’s easy to freeze when that happens.”
Kilner was involved in a close qualification battle right up to Vancouver and believes not having the same stress will make life easier this time.
He will spend next month at training camp in Switzerland before travelling to Colorado to prepare for the first World Cup of the season in the USA.
It will be the start of several months on the road, living out of a suitcase in pursuit of again living the Olympic dream.
“The World Cup season will be a practice for Sochi. Last time I had to put everything in just to make the team, so it’s nice not to have the same pressure,” he said.
“My riding and confidence has certainly improved and hopefully I can stay injury-free. Having had the experience in Vancouver just makes you more determined.
“I want that feeling again, of representing your country, knowing you are part of a select group of athletes at the pinnacle of their sport.
“Nothing beats wearing that Olympic emblem on your kit, with all it represents.”
© Sportsbeat 2013