HOW GB TOOK ON THE WORLD
13th December 2018 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
British freestyle skiers and snowboarders are now a global force. The story of how they did is the subject of a new illustrated book.
It’s called Radical Gains: The GB Park And Pipe Story and it’s been produced by a man whose action photographs you will have seen on PlanetSKI.
Sam Mellish has spent many months with the GB Park & Pipe Team.
He was with the squad at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics where snowboarder Billy Morgan won bronze in the Big Air and Izzy Atkin took bronze in the ski slopestyle.
It was while he was in South Korea that the idea developed during conversations with the squad’s programme manager, Lesley McKenna, and its two snowboard coaches, Hamish McKnight and Jack Shackleton.
“I’d been with the team on and off for the past 15 months or so, and with the success of PyeongChang, we’d built quite a collection of archival image,” Sam Mellish told PlanetSKI.
“We felt a coffee table book would be a great way to tell the story.”
The action sports journalist, Matt Barr, then got on board with the project and he and Mellish honed the plans while at the British Snowboard and Freeski Championships, the BRITS, in Laax in Switzerland in April.
“It was back in London when we decided to open it up and look at the roots of British ski and snowboarding,” Mellish told us.
“With such a rich heritage, from dry slopes to doing seasons, and how this has evolved to the athletes competing on a global scale.
“The dedication and the risks taken not only by the athletes, but the coaches alike, it’s a fascinating story.”
The book has 180 photographs by Mellish and other leading sports photographers and written contributions from writers on action sports.
In the book Pat Sharples, freeski coach and now Head of Coaching at GB Snowsport, recalls the moment the world stood up and took notice of Britain’s growing talent.
It was in the form of a then 19-year-old James Woods at the European Winter X Games in Tignes.
“At Woodsy’s first ever X Games appearance in 2011, he made the podium with a bronze medal,” Sharples says.
“This was the first time I’d say the international freeski community knew there was a 100% legit superstar on the scene who had grown up learning on the dry slopes, and was a brilliant endorsement of the wider British freeskiing scene.”
I was slopeside in Tignes and reported on it for PlanetSKI.
Sharples, who started out coaching up and coming British skiers for the love of it, says it all really began back in the nineties.
“In 1997, Salomon released the first ever twin tip ski (the Salomon 1080), which changed the game (and my life) forever…. it was like a new sport was being created before our eyes, with new tricks literally being invented daily.
“It became a lifestyle, and was basically the beginning of the British freeski community.”
One of the biggest game changers was the team’s first Olympic medal – Jenny Jones’s bronze at Sochi 2014 in the snowboard slopestyle.
“I’ve commentated on six Olympic Games and have seen a lot of Brits win medals during that time. But none of them have connected like that,” says the BBC’s snowboard correspondent, Ed Leigh, in the book.
“Knowing how deep the ties run in British snowboarding, and how much it would mean to everyone involved, was overwhelming.
“It was a landmark moment that brought tears to the eyes of everyone who has been lucky enough to be a part of Jenny and British snowboarding’s collective journey.”
He says that later that same year Billy Morgan became the first snowboarder to land a quad cork, to global acclaim.
Then, soon after, a 16-year-old Katie Ormerod became the first female snowboarder to land a double cork 1080.
The GB Park & Pipe skiers and snowboarders are now part of one squad, sharing all training and coaching facilities.
Ed Leigh says the idea was unheard of at the time but its success has seen almost every major nation adopt the same practice.
Radical Gains is a limited edition published by Diesel books.
It is available online now and costs £30.
It should be in bookshops in the New Year.
I will definitely be buying one – unless I can persuade Santa to stick one in my Christmas stocking, that is.
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