Sochi 2014: Spirits Soar as Team GB Smash it in Slopestyle

Jamie Nicholls sochi 2014
Jamie Nicholls celebrates landing one of the best runs of the day. Meanwhile his shadow decides to give a Nazi salute…

Amongst the Brits, the mood out here in Sochi after the first day of competition is good. Very good.

Today’s slopestyle qualis not only saw Billy Morgan become the first ever rider to compete in Olympic slopestyle (there’s a future pub quiz fact for you folks!*) but saw him, Jenny Jones, Aimee Fuller and most of all, Jamie Nicholls, absolutely smash it, all notching up seriously impressive results.

Sochi 2014
A gratuitous Whitelines selfie from the stands with Ben Kilner and most of Dom Harington.

Jamie’s was possibly the highlight of the day. Having landed his first run clean, he didn’t so much step it up for the second as leap a spiral staircase worth of steps. His first kicker trick, a cab 1440, left even him slightly speechless.

“Oh man I was so stoked, he told Whitelines. ”I’ve never done it proper before, and to do it here on this course… When I dropped in I just thought why not go for it? But I didn’t know that I had it for sure.”

Oh man I was so stoked. I’ve never done [the cab 1440] proper before, and to do it here on this course… When I dropped in I just thought, ‘why not go for it?’ But I didn’t know that I had it for sure.

His team-mate Ben Kilner was equally impressed. Having spent the past couple of days cruising around and just “getting used to it” with his halfpipe partner in crime, Dom Harington, Ben was already loving the Olympic experience the second time round.

Watching Jamie smash it from the stands was like the icing on the cake. “Wow. No-one’s done that switch on this course,” Ben said. “Everyone else who’s done a 1440 has done it frontside or backside, no-one’s even tried a cab 1440.”

Billy Morgan, Ben Kilner, Dom Harington Sochi 2014
Billy Morgan, Ben Kilner and Dom Harington watch from the stands.

Billy Morgan also had an incredible morning of it. He also landed a clean first run, and then went on to stomp cab double underflip, front double ten and the first ever triple cork in the Olympics (yes fact fans, that’s another potential pub quiz question answered.)

Having earned himself a healthy score of 85, Billy was unlucky to get bumped out of the four automatic finals spots later on. Initially looked a bit bummed, but 6th is a ridiculously good result by anyone’s standards, and while Billy’s are super-high, he was stoked later on, re-gramming this Whitelines photo.

In the women’s final, Jenny Jones (who like Billy was also drawn to drop in first) stomped a beast of a first run. Although she was visibly disappointed not to be able to follow up by bettering in with her second, the combination of cab 5, back 3, front 3 left her in a seriously impressive 5th place.

Sochi 2014 Aimee Fuller
Aimee Fuller was stoked on riding the course today. As the Welsh would say, absolutely loving it!

Aimee Fuller meanwhile was having a whale of a time. Having stomped the shit out of her cab underflip on her first run, she reverted on the landing of her backflip. But having got a massive cheer from the Russian crowd (who love a backflip as much as anyone) she proceeded to treat them to a pisstake pencil air over the final kicker. Legend!

With her trademark cheeriness intact she told us: “Well that was super fun if nothing else. I’m so stoked to be here. Gutted I missed that backflip, but it’s all good, there’s more to come on Sunday. Loving it!”

Well that was super fun if nothing else. I’m so stoked to be here!

Behind the scenes the Team GB crew were buzzing on the results – and the Sochi experience  - as well. Alison Robb, the team physio, was “so proud” of how they’d all done, and really excited about the week ahead. Paddy Mortimer meanwhile, who as the BSS’ performance director has a massive say in backing for all on-snow disciplines for Team GB, was in raptures about the riders’ performance.

Sochi 2014 Paddy Mortimer, Colin Holden, BSS
Paddy Mortimer and Colin Holden of the BSS. Both buzzing on the snowboarders’ performance.

“The park and pipe crew are absolutely killing it,” he said. And while he was necessarily diplomatic about the prospects for other disciplines in Sochi, over the course of a couple of lengthy chats, he made it clear that he sees snowboarding (and free-skiing) as a big priority for British snowsports on an official level.

But perhaps the vibe was summed up best by BSS’ snowboard director (and Whitelines’ travelling companion) Colin Holden, who said as we left the Rosa Khutor ‘Extreme Park’: “I think (and I may be wrong) that we’ve just witnessed the best day ever for British Olympic snowsports. In terms of results anyway. Three riders in the top 6 in their heats? And Aimee in the top 10? I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before.”

I think that we’ve just witnessed the best day ever for British Olympic snowsports.

As we left, Jamie, Ben, Dom, Aimee and Jenny were all heading back to their accommodation to don their suits and go to meet Princess Anne – who as a royal plays some sort of patron role for the British Olympic Association.

“I’m gonna get a selfie with her” said Jamie. But after performances like that from all the riders, we couldn’t help thinking that it should be princess Anne asking to get a selfies with them.

Team GB meeting Princess Anne
The whole snowboard team, preparing to meet Princess Anne at the British Olympic Association reception. Anyone feeling awkward in their suits?

*with thanks to Lucy Allman

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Sochi 2014 Slopestyle Qualifications - The Judgement