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Future looks bright for GB freestyle - Jane Peel, Laax
Monday April 11, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI spent a week at The Brits in Switzerland, watching some world class riding by more than 200 GB freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Just how strong a force is Great Britain & what does the future hold?

Olympics, X Games, World Cups.

GB not only has skiers and snowboarders competing at the top level, but winning medals there too.

Many of these elite athletes were at The British Championships held in the last week of the season in Europe's freestyle capital,  Laax in Switzerland.

Most came to compete.  Others came to show their support for the sport's new generation, for whom they are role models.

The Brits is a very special - and totally inclusive - event. 

Billy MorganBilly Morgan













One of Britain's best, Billy Morgan, who won bronze in the Snowboard Big Air at the X Games Oslo this year, competed alongside Oliver Burkinshaw.

Oliver is eight, and The Brits was the first competition. 

Oliver BurkinshawOliver Burkinshaw


















He is already receiving regular coaching in the mountains in the winter, with his 11-year-old skier brother, Max, who also competed in Laax.

Oliver (left) and familyOliver (left) and family













But they are far from alone.

In fact, very young kids competing at The Brits picked up medals, not only in their age groups, but in Open competition.

Some are on structured programmes and are being nurtured by coaches with a view to possible future greatness.

Others are on the radar of the national bodies, Snowsport Scotland and Snowsport England, which keep an eye on young talent emerging from the UK's indoor snow centres and dry slopes.

Sam Annis u-12halfpipe silverSam Annis u-12 halfpipe silver

















Then there are those on the verge of making it to the top. These are the athletes who are part of the National Academy.

The Academy is just one step down from the GB Park and Pipe Team, which is made up of the elite in the sport -  those who are Olympic standard. 

So who is likely to be the next James "Woodsy" Woods or Jenny Jones?  And who are the kids biting at their heels?

PlanetSKI spotted several contenders at The Brits, but we decided to ask the experts.

Pat SharplesPat Sharples












Pat Sharples, GB Park and Pipe's Head Freeski coach, had a close-up view of performances in Laax.

"We have got a lot of good talent coming through," he told us.

"For our National Academy athletes, we have put a coach in place here in Laax. 

"For them, just being on snow on one of the best parks in the world has seen them jump to the next level".

Those Academy athletes include 18-year-old Harris Booth and Chris McCormick, who's 17.  Both won golds at The Brits.

Chris McCormickChris McCormick




















Madi Rowlands, still just 15 years of age, is already at the top level, and is the youngest skier in the GB Park and Pipe Team.  

Madi RowlandsMadi Rowlands
















Madi won two medals at this year's Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, gold in the halfpipe, bronze in the slopestyle.  

And she went home from The Brits with a haul of six medals from both the under-16 and Open contests.

Madi at The BritsMadi at The Brits













"We have a bigger depth of athletes coming through now," Pat Sharples says, "and at a higher level than we have ever had before."

Asked about the even younger generation, Pat has no hesitation.

"For me, there have been some real standouts," he says.

"Kirsty Muir is 11-years-old.  She is really outstanding.  What surprised everybody is that she is a good all-round skier.

"She's getting good amplitude, good grabs, spinning in all four directions".

Kirsty MuirKirsty Muir
















Kirsty won not only the under-12 halfpipe and slopestyle events, but came third overall in the halfpipe and fourth overall in the slopestyle.

Kirsty in the SlopestyleKirsty in the Slopestyle














Pat also singles out 11-year-old Bradley Fry as one to watch.  

Bradley Fry on the podiumBradley Fry on the podium
















Among the snowboarders, Rowan Coultas and  16-year-old Fin Bremner are examples of National Academy athletes who have recently moved up to the main GB Team, joining the likes of Katie Ormerod, Billy Morgan, Aimee Fuller,  and Jamie Nicholls.

Rowan Coultas Brits Slopestyle ChampionRowan Coultas Brits Slopestyle Champion














The Team's assistant snowboard coach, Jack Shackleton, says a lot has changed in the last decade.

"I competed as an athlete on the GB team 8 to 10 years ago and the transformation since then has been astonishing," Jack says.

"A lot more are coming through now and we have a better infrastructure to support them.

"It's taken 10 years to go from being a minority sport to being able to compete at elite level."

Jack ShackletonJack Shackleton















Jack says this winter has been a particularly good one with superb results.

They include Billy Morgan's X Games bronze, and an impressive haul of medals at the final World Cup slopestyle of the season in the Czech Republic.

Jamie Nicholls topped the podium there, Billy Morgan was third, with Katie Ormerod second in the ladies' contest. 

And the future is looking bright too, with some impressive mini-shredders around.

Mia Brookes, for one. 

The diminutive nine-year-old is getting used to climbing up onto the podium, always taking her snowboard with her, no doubt to please her sponsors.

9-year-old Mia takes gold9-year-old Mia takes gold











It's a




It's about to become easier than ever before for the scouts to spot young talent. 

In May, the sport's governing body, British Ski and Snowboard (BSS) will launch a new initiative.

Championship Ski and Snowboard is an online video league.   It means kids who use UK facilities will be able to show off their tricks, even if they're unable to travel to competitions.

The coaches are excited at the prospect of identifying potential stars who can't get out to mountain training camps, but are honing their skills and style at home. 

Check out this video below for more information on the CSS League.

New Talent Sam Burley (10)New Talent Sam Burley (10)













New talent Liam Tynan (11)New talent Liam Tynan (11)














The Chief Executive of BSS, Dave Edwards, who was in Laax for The Brits, presides over an organisation that is clearly in good shape.

There are full-time coaches working with the elite athletes, a pathway programme to get those with potential to the next level, and talk of a partnership with the ski travel industry to help provide financial support for British skiers and snowboarders.

It's a far cry from 2010 when the predecessor to BSS, Snowsport GB,  went bust with almost £1 million of debts, in the middle of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. 

Dave EdwardsDave Edwards













"The transformation has been extraordinary," Dave Edwards says.

"We went through two years of survival, then went through another period of stability, getting the major funding organisations to trust us again."

Dave Edwards and his team achieved that in January 2012.

Six months earlier it had been announced that Slopestyle was to debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

BSS persuaded UK Sport that Great Britain had some serious medal contenders, and was given enough money to employ a manager and two coaches full-time to look after the Freeski and Snowboard teams. 

It paid off in the form of snowboarder Jenny Jones, who made history by winning Olympic slopestyle bronze for Team GB.

Jenny Jones with PlanetSKI at The BritsJenny Jones with PlanetSKI at The Brits
















After Sochi,  BSS submitted its bid based on the chances of success at the next two Winter Olympics.

It is currently funded by UK Sport to the tune of about £4 million over a four-year period.

Most of that money is ring-fenced for Park and Pipe which, realistically, has the biggest prospect of Olympic success. 

But BSS also has to consider the Alpine and Nordic disciplines, where British competitors are achieving extraordinary results which would have been beyond our wildest dreams just a few years ago.

With both Andrew Young and Andrew Musgrave winning medals in cross country events at the highest level, and slalom racer Dave Ryding achieving top-15 World Cup finishes -ending the season 22nd in the standings -  it is not unreasonable to question what they could achieve with more support.

Dave Edwards would clearly like to be able to do more.

"For the Park and Pipe side, things are fairly good", he says.

And generally?

"We're in a good place," he says, "but it can be better.

"And the better we are funded, the better it will get."

At The BritsAt The Brits













Favourite Brits Moments:

Peter Speight

Tyler Harding

BRITS 2016 - Freeski Edit

Park & Pipe Highlights from The Brits


Official photos:  The-Brits.Com,  Aivars Zee Zarins and Johan Höllmüller

Other photos:  PlanetSKI

You can read our daily reports from the Brits here:

Here is Day One when it was too warm.

The thick fog rolled in on Day Two.

It lifted a bit on Day Three - but only a bit.

And then heavy snow on Day Four

Full results of all the competitions this week are on The Brits website

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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