As she prepares to have her big airs, flips, twists and other tricks scrutinised on the world stage, freestyle skier Emma Lonsdale gives Ross Mclean an insight into life in Sochi – with today the day she competes as a Winter Olympian.
SHE has bided her time but standard-bearer Emma Lonsdale will strap on a set of skis today and realise her Winter Olympic dream.
If that was not noteworthy enough, the 29-year-old halfpipe skier is also carrying the nation’s hopes on her shoulders after the enforced withdrawal of team-mate Rowan Cheshire.
The teenager suffered a heavy fall during a training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park which means Lonsdale will fly the flag as GB’s sole entrant in the women’s competition.
And while this is not exactly how the Settle-born athlete envisaged competing, she remains determined to serve her country with distinction.
“I’m going to do my very best and, while I will have huge butterflies when the time comes, I’m not too worried,” she said.
“I just want to ski my best and make Britain proud. I’ve been working on my run in training – it’s been going really well and I’m happy with how I’m skiing.
“It’s been brilliant getting to watch so many events and Jenny Jones getting a medal was massively inspirational.
“But everyday I’ve been thinking is it time yet and when I got to start training it was a bit of a relief to get back onto the pipe.
“Obviously I’m gutted for Rowan as she is my team-mate. She’s doing really well but because it was a head injury there is just no way she could risk competing.
“This is not how I wanted to go into the Olympics, it was supposed to be both of us but now I’m skiing for the two of us.”
There has been much talk of the new generation of “fridge kids” within Great Britain’s 56-strong squad – the largest since the Calgary Winter Olympic Games of 1988.
For her part, Lonsdale was an alpine skier for 16 years before switching codes and being crowned British halfpipe champion nine times and appearing at World Cups and European Opens.
Great British halfpipe hopes now firmly rest with the Kendal Snowsports Club member after Murray Buchan and James Machon failed to qualify for the final in the men’s category.
Whether she can add to Lizzy Yarnold’s gold and Jones’ bronze remains to be seen although Lonsdale is keen to emphasise the wider team dynamic within the GB camp.
“A lot of people have asked me questions about medals and I’m not really answering them as it’s not what it’s about really,” she added.
“From the moment it was announced I was on the team the whole process began and for me it’s not all about today but the last eight years.
“The journey to get here is what it’s about. It’s just phenomenal that today I will get to show Great Britain what halfpipe skiing is all about.
“And the medals Great Britain have secured already have been won by all of us in some ways because the whole ‘hashtag one team’ thing is massively true.
“We’ve all been watching the events together, all live together and all eat together.
“Everyone is supporting everyone else and it makes me very proud to be British as we’re all standing together and going forward as a united front and it’s amazing.”
While the destination of medals remains uncertain and will be determined today, Lonsdale remains adamant all the hard work over the years on and off the snow has been worth it.
“Appearing here in Sochi has been the goal since halfpipe was announced as an Olympic event,” she said.
“It brings everything together and made all the hard work and 18-hour shifts worthwhile.
“I have no regrets. We all make sacrifices to get to where we want to get to and you don’ get there without making those sacrifices.
“You have to put in the hard work and then when you get to where you want to you realise what all the hard work was for.”
The women’s ski halfpipe qualification starts at 2.30pm UK time, with the final starting at 5.30pm.