From Sheffield to Sochi
There's definitely something in the water over in Yorkshire. After seeing huge success at London 2012 (the county would have come twelfth if it were a country unto itself), and with it bracing itself for the Tour de France next summer, Yorkshire is still riding the crest of the Olympic wave - and it's definitely gaining momentum as we head towards Sochi 2014.
It seems that while no one was watching, Yorkshire assembled itself a fantastic team of winter athletes who are ready to make a lot of noise at Sochi. The young talent being bred on the Dendex of Sheffield and the indoor snow of Castleford is truly outstanding - especially when it comes to the freeski scene. Here's a look at three of Yorkshire's finest Winter Olympic Ski hopefuls...
James "Woodsy" Woods
This 21 year-old is already an instantly recognizable face in the world of freestyle with a style (and a haircut) that's hard to ignore. He already has a number of huge achievements under his belt, including X-Games medals and a World Championship silver medal. He has been often referred to as a "fridge kid" due to practicing on indoor slopes. He actually learnt to ski on dry slopes in Sheffield, but has clearly shown that he is a force to be reckoned with on real snow as well.
Woodsy is known for his calm, collected and effortless style of skiing and his undercut hairstyle, which he has also been known to perfect by painting a British flag on the shaved side of his head. According to the young skier, he had never thought about the possibility of being an Olympic skier, adding that it was all about the X-Games for him.
However, that changed thanks to London 2012, during which he realized that he actually had a shot to be a part of the national team come 2014 and the Winter Games in Sochi. He is without a doubt a top contender when it comes to freestyle skiing and his performance is expected to be
Woods has already medalled in international competition this year, taking the slopestyle silver at the Freestyle Skiing World Championship in Norway.
James Machon didn't get his start on the dry slopes – he's been on the snow since the age of 6. However, he didn't discover freestyle skiing until he got on the dry slope at the Sheffield Ski Village Freestyle Park, which is where his love for freestyle skiing was sealed.
He is a monster on the halfpipe and has won just about every halfpipe-related domestic competition there is to win for skiers, including the British Halfpipe Championship, which he has won an unprecedented four times in a row. He was the first British skier to ever compete on the Winter Dew Tour.
Machon also placed very well in international competitions, such as the FIS World Cup and Aspen Open in 2012. He will definitely be one of the top British contenders on the GBFreeski team in Sochi.
Just like Woods and Machon, Katie Summerhayes also perfected her abilities on the dry slopes of the Sheffield Ski Village. She is a relatively new face on the scene, but her skills have made a lot of people notice her already. Summerhayes has had to battle through a lot of adversity recently. Just as her young career was taking off, she suffered a serious, even career-threatening knee injury that she spent most of 2012 recovering from slowly. However, the 2013 season proved that she will without a doubt be a force to be reckoned with come Sochi. She finished fourth in slopestyle at both the World Championships and the Euro Winter X-Games this year.
The fact that Great Britain will have superb contenders at the Winter Olympics is not something that happened by accident. There has been a recent push in funding and support for freestyle skiers in Britain, which is also a direct result of the amount of talent there is in the sport currently - you can show your support by purchasing one of our British Ski Team Ski Ties.
The successful seasons that all three of these freeskiers had definitely justifies the support being given to them on a national level and through lower-level sponsors. The funding will go towards various conditioning, technique and performance programmes for the freestyle skiing team that will take place not only in the UK, but in Canada and New Zealand as well.
It speaks volumes that all three perfected their crafts on indoor or dry slopes, showcasing a homegrown freeski scene that can match anywhere in the world. Woods, Machon and Summerhayes are all just starting their careers and the sky's the limit for all three of them. Considering how young they are, Sochi certainly should not be the only Winter Olympic Games in which we will be seeing all three of them competing at the highest level possible.