Sochi 2014: Jenny Jones, And Why Her Medal Means so Much


A very stoked looking Jenny answering questions for BBC Radio 5 Live

Wow, what a day! The pressure of the build up, the exhilaration of initial success, the screaming support, and then the unbearable tension of that wait for the score… And then of course having to watch the second half of the field dropping before the final, euphoric rush of the realization that she’d done it… That was something that no British snowboarder watching – whether from here at the Rosa Khutor park or in the inimitable company of Ed Leigh and Tim Warwood at home – could ever forget.

What an achievement by Jenny Jones. Even if you were to leave aside the fact that she’s the first Brit ever to win a medal on snow (and I don’t know how you could ignore that – specially as it’ll be all over tomorrow’s papers) finishing third in a field is filled with that much talent would be awesome. Doing that in the biggest contest of your career is next level.

But while the absolutely bolts run, the score and the third place finish would be more than enough by themselves, it’s what that result (and the bit of bling they draped around Jenny’s neck) means that makes it so significant.

That was something that no British snowboarder watching could ever forget.

Firstly and most importantly of course, there’s what it means for Jenny. Whitelines was waiting to congratulate her as she emerged from the media scrum with the biggest smile we’ve ever seen on her face. We were looking for a quote, but it felt like any question we could have asked would have been a bit trite. And anyway, Jenny was so elated she could barely speak, simply saying “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god it’s amazing,” and giving us a massive hug.

Jenny realising that Team GB physio Alison Robb (left) is in tears

By her own admission Jenny hasn’t had the easiest time over the past couple of years, suffering from several niggling injuries that have prevented her from scaling the peaks she had previously as a multiple X Games gold medallist. She was visibly feeling the pressure during the qualifying rounds here in Sochi, which must have made stomping that run – and getting that result – feel all the more sweet.

Before comforting her.

Second, it was obvious what the medal meant for the British Park and Pipe crew, who have worked with and supported Jenny (as well as the rest of the team) in the years leading up to these Games. Alison Robb, the Team GB physio, couldn’t contain herself and burst into tears. Colin Holden, snowboard director of BSS’ was also welling up, while coach Hamish McKnight’s reaction would’ve made Alex Ferguson proud: “Pfff…” he said. “Bloody hell!

Coach Hamish McKnight’s reaction would’ve made Alex Ferguson proud: “Pfff…” he said. “Bloody hell!

Thirdly there’s what it means for British snowboarding as a whole. The result was followed by an incredible out-pouring of emotion on social media, the likes of which the British scene has never seen before. Everyone – from novices tuning into their first comp to grizzled industry veterans – wanted to share how stoked they were.

Jeremy Sladen, the head honcho of TSA and a man not normally given to using text-speak, was moved to write: “OMG, yet again Jenny Jones nails the greatest day in UK snowboard history.” And to judge by many of the tweets, Facebook messages and Instagrams Whitelines has seen, Ed Leigh, Tim Warwood and Aimee Fuller weren’t the only ones blubbing away to the BBC’s footage.

If snowboarding has always been an outsider sport, then British snowboarding has always felt an outsider to the outsiders. A lack of big mountains and consistent snow has produced a scene that’s small, but peculiarly tight: bonded by a shared sense of overcoming adversity and making do with what we’ve got.

Sarah and Ella, two Jenny Jones fans (and Whitelines readers to boot) showing the love.

In many ways Jenny, who started out on dryslope and learned her craft as a chalet girl in Tignes, is the archetypal British rider. And during the long periods when she was the only British shredder competing at the highest level of competition, this Bristolian became something of a people’s champion, our representative of the British scene on the international stage.

So to see her succeed on the biggest stage of all is massive. Her performance proves that snowboarders from our small island not only hold their own but beat the best in the world, and beat them when it really counts. Jenny’s X Games Golds might have already made that point as far as the snowboard community is concerned, this medal lets the world at large know that British snowboarding is badass.

In many ways Jenny, who started out on dryslope and learned her craft as a chalet girl in Tignes, is the archetypal British rider.

And although the phrase “inspire a generation” might sound a bit naff in the aftermath of the London Olympics, you can guarantee there were little kids up and down the country who watched Jenny today and thought: “I want to have a go at that.”

Not just that, but Jenny’s achievement also has enormous implications for the future funding of snowboarding in the UK. Paddy Mortimer, the performance director of British Ski and Snowboard, was open about the difference a medal would make for government grant applications. “Oh yeah,” he said, “it makes a huge difference if you have a medal, huge. Think about cycling and how much of a difference their first Olympic medals made when it came to UK Sport funding. We’ve proved we can do it now, and that counts for a lot. Although of course I’m hoping for more medals from the Park and Pipe Team to come.”

Jenny’s Team GB team-mates showing their support. Skeleton Bob slider Lizzy Yarnold with freeskiers Katie Summerhayes and Rowan Cheshire on either side of her. They were both going wild!

Hamish McKnight agreed: “It’s definitely not a bad thing! No, hopefully it’ll mean we get to build more, I mean we’ve got numerous projects in the wings and hopefully it means we’ll get to do more of them.” Meanwhile the BBC’s Graham Bell said: “I’ve seen it before, with Skeleton Bob. This is just the start, if you’re winning medals it means people want to back the sport.”

The BBC’s Graham Bell said: “I’ve seen it before, with Skeleton Bob. This is just the start, if you’re winning medals it means people want to back the sport.”

More backing of course means more chances for kids to get into snowboarding, and for promising talents to be nurtured into world-beating riders of the future, which can only be a good thing for those of us who love the shred.

Of course Jenny Jones didn’t win a bronze medal for anyone but herself today, and nor should she have done. As her dad Pete put it when answering enquiries from one tabloid hack: “It’s her bloody medal at the end of the day.” But the fact that her achievement – incredible in itself – could help usher in a whole new era for British snowboarding makes it doubly exciting.

The results writ large on the big screen.
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