Q&A with GB Olympic skier Ellie Koyander

By Online Editorial
Ellie Koyander (Photo: Mike Austin)

Ellie Koyander (Photo: Mike Austin)

Ellie Koyander, Britain’s top female Freestyle Mogul Skier, has her sights firmly set on the podium at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but recent rapid progression means that the 18-year-old could still represent Great Britain in Vancouver next month.

The young British prospect finds a precious spare moment to answer a few questions for The Sport Review.

What is your first skiing memory?
The first time I was on skis I was 1 year and 9 months old, but I don’t ever remember learning to ski, it’s just something that I grew up doing as my father was a ski coach. My earliest memory is probably doing my first of many Slalom races aged five in a kindergarten ski school aged five and getting my first medal!

For those who are unfamiliar with skiing and especially the mogul discipline, what is it that you love about the sport?

(Photo: Mike Austin)

(Photo: Mike Austin)

For me, it’s the ultimate challenge for a skier. It just takes everything that you’ve got to offer. You have to ski with absolute technique, on the knife-edge of control, on the steepest slopes.

The feet have to work intuitively and feel every turn and bump on the mountain, each skier that goes down modifies the bump shape slightly so no two runs are ever the same. Then there is the gymnastic skill, spatial awareness and high courage levels required to hit the two kickers as fast as you are able to ski. At the same instance, calmly pull a back flip or floating 360, for example.

The adrenaline of the occasion, with a live TV camera three inches from your face in the start gate, as well as the variable conditions of the snow, makes for a considerable challenge.

There’s so much to get right and you just have to be incredibly precise about absolutely everything, whilst maintaining peak condition of the body, mind and soul!

How have you found moving away from family and friends?
My journey has just meant that I have always been really independent and I have just gotten used to that.

I’m really lucky, I have so many friends on the competition circuit, it just feels like one big family. I have kept some really close friends at home as well though who just know me as ‘Ellie’ rather than ‘Ellie the mogul skier’. No matter how much I am away from home they will always be my best friends.

I do miss my little sister and my parents but we manage to keep in really close contact on Skype. This works so well as there is usually an internet connection to be found, even in some of the most remote mountain areas.

I seem to spend my year chasing the snow around the world but I’m never without great company and my coaches are my second family – it gets pretty ‘up-close and personal’ working, living, eating, training, sleeping and traveling together!

It’s important to achieve your targets, I think it gives an athlete a great deal of credibility

What are your aims for the Vancouver Olympics in the context of your career as whole? Is this a sort of stepping stone towards future success?
It’s a real privilege to even come into contention as one of the top 30 elite mogul athletes in the world who have made the grade to take part in the Olympic event, especially as Great Britain isn’t renowned as a competitive skiing nation! I’m still young and in my career span there will be five Winter Olympic opportunities, so I think that the Vancouver Olympics will prepare me for the next Games in Sochi in 2014. My target for Sochi is Olympic Gold!

Have you set yourself any targets for your career as a whole?
If you were to plot the development of my career on a graph, it would be a near to vertical line — every year has been a critical year! I can’t remember a time when we haven’t been working within a four-year cycle, then the particular year, month, week, day, hour, run!

It’s important to achieve your targets, I think it gives an athlete a great deal of credibility when talking about sponsorship or funding.

How crucial is government funding to your success? Do you feel the UK government supports young athletes such as yourself enough?
Funding is always tough for an emerging athlete. I’m incredibly fortunate to be supported by the sport governing body TASS 2012 Scholarship. These Scholarships are aimed at elite level youngsters and have made a huge difference and contribution to my success.

But travelling the world is hugely expensive, especially with my various coaches, so I’m also lucky to have Slipstream [Ellie’s management agency], who are always on the lookout to build on great sponsorship opportunities.

TSR understands that your sporting hero is Kelly Holmes. What is it about Kelly that you respect so much?
Her winning moment in the 800m at the Athens Olympic Games is something that has inspired so many Brits, and I can to relate the whole experience to my mogul skiing. In a race nothing else exists but sheer 110% commitment, focus and energy. The world beyond the finish line; huge cheering crowds, TV cameras, officials and coaches are put out of my mind.

All I’m looking at is the scoreboard for my result… I visualise my own powerful Kelly Holmes moments!

Finally, what is your favourite pastime away from the snow?
Complete contrasts really. Either anything that has an adrenaline buzz: mountain biking, cliff jumping, climbing etc… or curled up reading a book, playing on my iPod touch, or my guitar!

Starting this week, Ellie will be writing a blog for The Sport Review, building up to the Vancouver Games. You can also follow Ellie’s progress on her website and on Twitter.

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