“Snowboards for girls didn’t exist when I started”: Katie Ormerod on her Winter Olympic journey

“Snowboards for girls didn’t exist when I started”: Katie Ormerod on her Winter Olympic journey

Ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, Team GB’s Katie Ormerod talks to Stylist about how her athlete’s mindset got her through the challenges of lockdown. 

Katie Ormerod has been snowboarding since she was five years old on the dry slopes in Halifax. 20 years later, she’s about to compete at her first Winter Olympic games, snowboarding for the UK at Beijing 2022.

“My parents were keen snowboarders so took me there one day and I loved it so much I kept going back pretty much every day after school and on the weekends,” she says. Quickly, she was scouted by coaches and ended up competing across the country.

The journey hasn’t been as easy as it sounds. In her training right before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics, where she was expected to medal, Ormerod broke her wrist and shattered her heel in half. Now, she’s back. She talks to Stylist about succeeding in a male-dominated sport, coming back from injury and how her athlete’s mindset got her through lockdown training. 

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How are you feeling about heading off to the games after a very tumultuous few years of training and competing thanks to Covid?

“Covid has been awful for everyone, not just athletes who have had to limit travel, but I have to admit that the first part of lockdown was just impossible. The changing restrictions have just added an extra layer of stress to everything.

“I was really lucky that I didn’t miss out on any competitions and I’ve only missed one training day over the entire pandemic. I couldn’t get on my flight because travel restrictions changed on Christmas Eve but without any notice, so I had to fly out the next day. I feel very lucky that that’s my only little mishap.” 

You’re going into the Winter Olympics straight after the summer Olympics thanks to the delay  were there any standout moments for you over the summer of 2021?

“The stand out for me has to be Simone Biles. She’s my favourite athlete anyway, but watching her resilience through the Tokyo Games and how open she was about what she was going through – and then watching her comeback to get the bronze medal on beam was just amazing and so inspirational.

“The British athletes were also amazing and I’m trying to channel their confidence into Beijing as well.” 

Have Biles’ open conversations made it easier, in your experience, to have those honest conversations with your coach and teammates as a fellow athlete?

“Because she is such a high profile athlete – everyone knows who she is, not just in the gymnastics circles – for her to be so open on such a global stage definitely leads the way in terms of having open discussions. I think she’s inspired more athletes to speak out about struggles. Luckily I haven’t been in that situation yet, and I hope I don’t have to be, but I feel like if I ever was then her legacy shows that it’s totally fine to do that.”

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Speaking of resilience, you’ve come back from your fair share of horrible injuries. How do you cope with that?

“Injuries are a part of all sport, not just snowboarding. Unfortunately, I have had a few in the past but I don’t dwell on them. I actually just see them as an inconvenience more than anything, and they’ve never made me want to stop snowboarding because I absolutely love what I do. My first thought after an injury is always: ‘OK, how long is it going to take me to get back to doing what I love?’

“When I broke my heel at the last Olympics, it took seven operations to get better. That wasreally tough both mentally and physically. I had to really pay attention to the small wins every day. Even if I could just lift one more rep of something in the gym, I’d tell myself that I was getting a tiny step closer to the end result of getting back on my board and being able to work properly again.” 

Is that mindset what it takes to be an athlete? Most people wouldn’t want to go back to a sport that left them needing seven operations, but you pick yourself up all the time.

“Definitely. I’ve been through a lot of pain, and it never stops me. I mean, I’d rather not have to go through it but I come back stronger from them every single time. I do have to be really mentally headstrong, accept it and the fact that it was meant to happen. I think a big part of being an athlete is focusing on what I can control, which is the rehab and getting better.”

Katie Oremerod is competing at Beijing 2022

Is that how you got through your disrupted training schedule in lockdown?

“It was so tough for everyone, not knowing how long we were going to be stuck inside for. So being able to really focus on the things in my control and make a plan for every day really helped me keep a solid routine in place.

I did what I could with my training, like using my garage as a gym and doing some gymnastics in the back garden. Controlling the controllables really helped me mentally get through that time.” 

Snowboarding isn’t thought of as a very accessible sport in the UK – particularly for women. What’s been your experience of that?

“Well, we really need more girls in snowboarding. Growing up, I was very aware that it was a heavily male-dominated sport. You could see more guys on the hill and in the snowparks, but I also had to start on a boy’s snowboard because they just didn’t make boards for girls.

“Luckily, I’ve seen that changing. We’ve got the same amount of women and men competing at the Olympics now, which I think is amazing, and brands like Roxy cater specifically for women. But I’m still hoping that this Olympics will inspire a lot of younger girls in the UK to get involved – I’ve shown that you don’t necessarily have to live in the Alps to become a Winter Olympian. I was born and raised in West Yorkshire, I still live here now, and I’ve built my snowboarding career through the UK system on dry slopes.”

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Finally, what are you hoping for from this Olympic run?

Considering where I was four years ago where I got injured in – the roller coaster of a journey it’s been over the last few years – I’m just really excited and proud that I’ve actually qualified again. That’s already a huge bonus for me, but now I’m going to the Olympics I just want to really make the most of the whole experience. I didn’t actually get to compete last time, so I’m really looking forward to just trying to do the best I can possibly do on the day and hopefully I’ll get a result from that. I can’t do anything else.” 

Katie is an ambassador for Roxy. You can follow her on Instagram @ormerodkatie.

Images: Getty / Roxy 

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