After launching my own company, it's time to get down to business on the snow
Zoe Gillings is Britain’s No 1 snowsports athlete. The 26-year-old snowboarder from the Isle of Man has competed at the highest level of international snowboarding since she was 16 and has raced in two Winter Olympic Games.
She is the only British athlete to ever win a World Cup snowboard cross competition and be ranked world No 1. Zoe now has six World Cup podiums under her belt and is preparing for the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and will be writing regular updates on her competition and training from all over the world for the next eight weeks.
Wow, so much has happened in the last 12 months I’m not quite sure where to start.
When I wrote my last update in April 2011 to say the future was uncertain was an understatement. My funding had been cancelled and I was about to set up a business venture to replace this loss.
I’m relieved to say it is all falling into place and my season has got off to a fantastic start. I’m producing some of the best qualification times of my life.
Action: Zoe Gillings took part in the Winter X Games
In my first four competitions I have secured four top 10 world class results and reached two finals. The next Winter Olympics might be two years away, but the work is already fully underway.
Just last Sunday I competed at the prestigious X Games event in Aspen, Colorado. It was the fourth time I had been invited to compete. It is a huge competition in America, all the biggest names in the World are there, like Shaun Whyte, Sean Palmer, Mark McMorris and Jenny Jones.
One thing is for sure the crowds are loud and raucous. No wonder, the races have some of the biggest features seen on the race calendar. There was a gap jump that was about 16 foot high and the final jump was a good 90 foot from take-off to landing.
There was a tribute to the Canadian freestyle icon Sarah Burke, who died following a training accident on a halfpipe in Utah. Accidents like these bring home the dangers of winter sports.
I didn't know Sarah personally, but I followed her career and I knew she was a great athlete who helped bring snow sports forward in leaps and bounds.
There are very big dangers involved in winter sport at the top levels. I have competed at two competitions where fellow competitors have lost their lives. It is what we love to do though so we accept the dangers and they get put to the back of our minds.
When it came to my event I qualified third and reached the final. Unfortunately my medal hopes ended after I fell while trying to fend off a passing manoeuvre from the Olympic gold medallist Maelle Ricker. That is always one of the hazards of the sport, but I still finished in sixth overall.
Leap of faith: Zoe in action at the Swiss World Cup
Consistent results are the key. It’s ironic that with all investment cancelled, I now have the best program I’ve had to date!
For the first time in five years I managed to do eight weeks pre-season training in Austria. People might find that surprising, but the severe delays and reduction in funding each year meant virtually no training on snow.
I also negotiated access to the world class Dutch national snowboard cross program. This meant I had access to a world class coach, assistant coach, physiotherapist, wax technician, team manager and two world class athletes to train with.
Over the last 10 years I have been able to access one or two of these services if I have been lucky. Now, with no external funding, I have access to all six.
Business has become my second passion and made all this possible. Nine months ago I launched a daily deals website on the Isle of Man to fund my program – IsleofDeals.com. Turning entrepreneur is certainly keeping my Olympic dream alive and soon I will be taking on my first full-time employee.
I’ve also been extremely fortunate to receive some new sponsorship from Neteller who learned about my funding predicament plus renewed support from Pokerstars and BMW.
I’m glad to say that the last 12 months have been absolutely awesome. It’s not been easy by any means, but I’ve loved every single minute of it and broadened by experiences in business as well as setting up my own world class snowboard program.
Right now, I’m currently in San Francisco having a few days off with my brother Jon, his wife Tyla and my nephew Zadin who live out here. I then head to Canada for the next two World Cup competitions. My aim is to build on this solid start and get on the podium.
Wish me luck!