[Lashara van Heerden | Contributing Writer]
Winter Olympics stars Jamie Nicholls and Aimee Fuller were at the impressive Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead on Thursday 20th November, and BlueMoon was lucky enough to meet with them and see them ride.
Not only did they represent Team Great Britain in the Winter Olympics for Freestyle Snowboarding, they are also ambassadors for the GO SKI GO BOARD national campaign by Snowsport England. We found out more about their careers, and the people behind the boards.
Aimee Fuller on tricks, training, and women in sport
Fuller is determined and ambitious; she has a striking energy about her that catches your attention. Although her home base is in Northern Ireland with her partner, she is often snowboarding in Europe, as she was recently, or in America.
Besides making it into the semi-finals of the Ladies’ Slopestyle event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games and placing 9th overall, she is the first woman to perform a double back flip and the cab double 900. Fuller is working hard so that by the next Olympics she will be “ready to go and have the tricks in the bag” to “hopefully pull out all the stops.”
Her ambition at the moment is to win the X Games, an action-sports competition, after she competed last year when she said she didn’t quite get her run down. With hopes to return with a solid run down it all looks promising. The next couple of years are going to be about “focusing on my riding and pushing myself and progressing as much as possible”, she says. Her plan is to work on her ‘trick bag’ and make the harder tricks become the ‘mellower tricks’ and then “I can have some bigger tricks after that,” she says. Ideally Fuller wants a “clean basic run with some big technical tricks, but for now I am focusing a little more on the rails, to put it all together to get good results.”
“The best snowboarding time is in the morning” says Fuller, who starts her day with a good hearty bowl of porridge. “I smash a breakfast up on the mountain. I normally ride from around nine to twelvish, have a quick pit stop and head over to do some jumps and rails in the afternoon.”
She is a dedicated athlete and as a general rule, trains for three days on and one day off when up in the mountains. A lot of the training is based on the contest and the weather, so on good days, “I work as hard as I can” she says.
Fuller talks about gender in the sport with great energy: “The level of boy snowboarding is ridiculous, it’s going through the roof,” she says. However, she still believes it is a great time for girls in snowboarding.
“Girls in Sochi are on the same course as the boys,” she says. “There aren’t many sports where it’s equal and obviously they [men] are doing bigger tricks and that is just a testament to strength and time as they have been doing bigger tricks for longer, we are constantly playing catch-up, but we are getting there and the sport is definitely evolving. The next few years are going to be crazy.”
If she weren’t snowboarding all over the world she would like to be a weather woman, which isn’t surprising seeing as her days are dictated by the weather. Fuller has done a lot of commentating at different events, and after the next Olympic cycle she would like “go into some sort of sports commentary,” she says. “But right now it’s about focusing on the boarding.”
Jamie Nicholls on life off the slopes
Jamie Nicholls has a clear sight on what he wants and cuts no corners. He’s one single-minded man about snowboarding. He started his career as young as nine years old and was considered to be one of the best in the UK at age thirteen. After coming in 5th place at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games he too has his eyes on winning the X games and being on the podium at the next Olympics “wouldn’t be too bad” either.
A normal day not training involves skateboarding or playing golf, something where he can be chilled and “not thinking of snowboarding at all.” Nicholls does acknowledge that “it can get too much” and he values his down time.
Nicholl’s has been on a long snowboarding journey, over 14 years. But when asked what he would do if he wasn’t snowboarding Jamie ‘hmmmm-ed’ and admitted that it is hard to imagine.
“My family and I got into it together,” aged seven at the Halifax Ski and Snowboard centre, he said. “It was a place I passed every day on the way to the supermarket anyway – it was so local, so I had to have a go.”
After going everyday for two hours, except for designated family days on Sunday, Nicholls has kept this tradition. He now lives in London with his partner, and keeps Sundays as a rest day, when he can enjoy his favourite treat – warm apple pie and custard or chocolate fudge cake.
While a lot of snowboarders and renowned for their drinking and partying, Nicholls is teetotal. He says that he can “still go out and have a good time” but that not drinking is “better for me and my health.”
He tried drinking when he was younger and found it wasn’t for him. He said: “I go to parties, show my face and then peace out and go home, and watch a film and the next morning I feel good.” He has a chuckle that everyone ‘feels shit’ while he gets to enjoy the early morning rides.
Becoming snowboarding sports heroes
Successes aside, it is great to see that they appreciate the roles that they fill as idols for younger kids trying to aspire to the same level.
Fuller believes that it’s easier being herself and knows that “no one will be let down” that way. She seems amazed, but humbled, by the role of becoming a sports hero: “It is a pretty crazy concept that I can’t quite grasp. It’s an honour,” she says.
Nicholls can identify with looking up to sport heroes when he was younger and is modestly proud that he can be one too. He said: “When I was younger I had people to look up to and Wayne Taylor was one of the guys who influenced me the most.” In the early stages of his career Nicholls was introduced to snowboarder Wayne Taylor, who helped him through the growing up stages and continues to help him today.
Nicholls practices at the Snow Centre every Thursday and Friday and believes this helps motivate kids, “I think it’s good for the kids and for me,” he said. “To help them and progress with them, they know me and can talk to me, ask for tips and see me ride.”
Both athletes on first impression look like young adults with a lot of energy, while speaking to them it is clear they have their eyes on the target and the drive to get there, but they are definitely enjoying the ride. I believe we can expect to see great things from these two in the near future!