Sport

Interview: Welsh Snowboarding starlet ready to make the jump to Olympic-level

Mark Wyatt speaks to Winter Olympic hopeful Maisie Potter as the countdown to PyeongChang 2018 continues

By Mark Wyatt

In only her second season at the top tier of snowboarding Maisie Potter, 20, is inches away from earning herself a spot in the Team GB group that will be racing at the Winter Olympic Games in 2018.

Maisie’s journey to this point has seen her travel around the world and relentlessly test her ability, affording her the best possible chance of making the jump to Olympic-standard racing in the future.

The snowboarder from Snowdonia has spent much of her childhood honing her skills and now has her chance to impress at the Olympic qualifiers in December.

Her specific discipline is boardercross, an event that has featured at the last three Winter Olympic Games but has never produced a medal for Team GB.

“Snowboardcross is a mix of all the snowboard disciplines with a combination of racing and jumps,” Potter said.

“Some of the key skills required are: fast reaction time, good board control and being able to maintain and generate speed.

“It’s an exciting race head to head with 6 riders over a specifically built course from big jumps to banked turns. The first to cross the line wins. I love it – you get a massive adrenaline rush!

“I’ve been lucky this year as I’ve had a lot of time on snow already. I feel much more prepared going into the winter.”

In a sport like snowboarding it is important for athletes to test themselves on snow as much as possible – which requires an awful lot of travelling.

Maisie has recently returned from training across the world and has picked up some memorable moments already.

She commented: “My winter finished at the end of April and I was back on snow in June on the French glacier (Les 2 Alpes). Since then, I have been on snow every month.

“I went to Chile and Argentina for three weeks to train and compete in two World Cups. It was really exciting going to the southern hemisphere (and a bit surreal landing in a snowstorm in my flip flops in mid-august!).

“We trained on a volcano in Chile, which was pretty epic. It was a very focused environment with other professional teams based there too. The World Cups were in Patagonia, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and it didn’t disappoint!”

One thing that has helped set Maisie apart from her competition is her training when she was growing up.

Maisie benefitted hugely from racing on the infamous French circuit from a young age.

“Racing when I was 11-15 on the French circuit I think has really helped me have a good base and “understand” racing.

“The French team is one of the strongest teams on tour. Having a similar snowboarding background to some of the French riders is valuable and gives me confidence.”

But when she wasn’t on the continent, Maisie made the most of her surroundings as a youngster to best replicate the conditions she faces when she’s on the snow.

“Coming from North Wales I have so many outdoor sports on my doorstep, which is great… Sports such as skating and surfing keep my training varied, which is key.

“However, being Olympic year it’s vital to be healthy this season and not risk anything. After this season, I would like to spend a bit more time doing other hobbies, if I can!”

It’s motivation like this that keeps Maisie at the top of her game and talking to her it’s sometimes hard to remember that she is still only 20 years old.

Her composure and dedication to succeed is something that sets her apart from many and she heaps praise on those that have inspired her to do well.

“I have met a number of inspiring athletes and I’m sure I’ve taken little things from each one. My team mates Zoe Gillings (snowboardcross) and Emily Sarsfield (skicross) especially.

“On tour, the girls I aspire to are Eva Samkova who won gold at the age of 20 at the last Olympics, she’s a machine and the one to beat. Also, Faye Gulini, who is one of the top US girls and an all-round talented rider.”

With time ticking down ever-quicker before the Olympic qualifiers, Maisie is quietly confident of making the cut to race in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Her races over the last 12 months have been against some of the best snowboarders in the world and positive results have helped Maisie keep the required motivation to qualify.

“After my result at the Olympic qualifier in Argentina (21st and just behind my team-mate and 3x Olympian Zoe) it has given me confidence going into the next Olympic qualification races in December.

“It will not be easy but it’s completely within my ability as I have already secured one result (14th) at World Champs back in March.”

Looking to the future of GB snowboarding it’s vital that the sport continues to receive the vital funding that it requires.

The current state of UK Sport has seen funding cut from Olympic sports at regularly intervals recently – despite hitting their medal target in Rio, GB Badminton had their funding scrapped earlier this year.

Snowsports are expensive to take part in and getting the next generation interested in the sport and supporting them in their junior years proves to be very costly.

Luckily for Maisie she has received a grant from the British Ski and Snowboarding foundation which has helped her tenfold.

“Receiving this grant from the federation is really helpful as being a self funded winter athlete is tough.

“Along with the support from Snowsport Wales, this reward has really given me extra motivation knowing that that my federation are behind me and believe in my ability.

“As well as bringing in a new head coach, I have already had very valuable training leading up to the upcoming races.”

The future looks very bright for the young Welsh athlete indeed, Gair Rhydd Sport will be following Maisie’s journey closely and wish her all the best in the next chapter of her career.

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