Pat Sharples insists the view of British freestyle skiers has changed to the point where they are now seen as serious medal contenders – although he won’t go as far as promising success.
The countdown to next year’s Olympics in Sochi will see Sharples and his team head to Whistler to start training before the new World Cup campaign gets underway in New Zealand in August.
Britain enjoyed much success last season with James Woods winning the slopestyle World Cup title as well as bronze at the X Games and silver at the World Championships in Norway.
Meanwhile Katie Summerhayes, who represented Team GB in ski halfpipe at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in 2012, won World Cup slopestyle silver in Silvaplana in February.
And, despite the current crop earning the nickname ‘Fridge Kids’ because they often train at the UK’s indoor slopes, British freeski head coach Sharples insists they can be successful for years to come.
“At one point we were the underdogs but now definitely not,” said Sharples.
“We’re well respected at all the major events and this year Woodsy dominated and Katie was up there as well with a lot of others coming through strong.
“It’s always hard to say we can dominate but we are contenders now, we’re not looked at as one-hit wonders. People realise that you can learn a lot about our sport on the basic artificial slopes which are great for youngsters and the generation coming through.
“We’ve always said it can be but I’m not sure how many people believed that. Now we’ve sort of proved that you can do a lot of training back in the UK.”
On the way to the World Cup title last year, Woods won in Ushuaia and Copper Mountain while Summerhayes’ success came on her return from a cruciate knee injury suffered last winter.
Sharples is aiming to take at least five athletes to Sochi for the Olympics but admits it those below the likes of Woods and Summerhayes who excite him the most.
“For Woodsy it was no secret he wanted to win the overall World Cup tour. We didn’t have much doubt that he would be able to pull it off,” he added.
“Katie Summerhayes was really special. That to me was probably the biggest stand out of all my athletes’ successes.
“And we’ve kept our youth program going while we’ve been focusing at the higher level and it has kept kids coming through.
“I’m almost more excited about that because we’ve got so much good up and coming talent who could make a big impact in 2018, as well as my athletes that I’ve still got from 2014 who are relatively young, so I definitely feel like we’re on the right track.”
© Sportsbeat 2013