Back on British soil after starring at the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, halfpipe skier Emma Lonsdale talks to Ross McLean about her moment in the Olympic spotlight, her decision to retire and a winter sporting legacy.
WHILE conceding she did not perform to her best, halfpipe skier Emma Lonsdale has no room for regrets following the conclusion of her Winter Olympic adventure.
The 29-year-old became the last of Britain’s freestyle competitors to take to the snow in Sochi, flying the national flag on her own after injury to team-mate Rowan Cheshire.
Requiring a top 12 finish to qualify for the finals, the Settle-born athlete fell short after recording scores of 53.80 and 53.20 from her two runs at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Placed 18th on her Winter Olympic debut, Lonsdale insists some uncustomary errors slipped into her performance although she remains content with her overall showing.
“I skied a lot better in training than I did in the competition but I’m still very proud of what I achieved,” she said.
“While it was quite relaxed considering the level we were competing at, there were some nerves and that was evident in mistakes that wouldn’t normally be made.
“I’m quite consistent in my skiing, I don’t do anything completely huge and amazing but I’m known for skiing with good amplitude and good grabs.
“But I missed some of my grabs that I don’t ever miss. On the whole though I was really happy with my skiing even though it wasn’t the best I could do.
“I would have obviously preferred to have come 15th which is my world ranking or the top 12 so I didn’t miss out on the final.
“But in fairness I’m still over the moon to come 18th in the Olympics, I think it is quite an achievement and of course qualifying in the first place was the really hard bit.”
Surpassing the three-medal target set by UK Sport, Great Britain equalled their record of four medals won at the inaugural Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924.
And there could have been more podium finishes given Elise Christie’s three disqualifications in short track and highly-rated slopestyle skier James Woods being hampered by injury.
But while Sochi 2014 is viewed as a significant step forward for British winter sport prospects, Lonsdale’s first Olympic appearance will also be her last after promptly announcing her halfpipe retirement.
“Great Britain can be extremely proud of its overall performance and even though we met the medal criteria we also got 13 top-eight finishes,” she added.
“Coming home on the plane the whole team was in high spirits. I was sat next to Lizzy Yarnold and she was extremely laid back considering she is an Olympic gold medallist.
“I didn’t realise how much team spirit and a united front there would be – there really was a sense of one team doing it together.
“My decision to retire was made quite a while ago. I’d thought about it a couple of years ago but then halfpipe became an Olympic discipline.
“I thought I might as well try for the Olympics and make the pinnacle of any athletes’ career and I did.
“I have retired from halfpipe but not from being a professional athlete as I still have commitments to my sponsors.
“But as far as the slightly longer-term is concerned I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, I’m trying to figure it out.”
After helping to deliver Britain’s best-ever performance on snow, freestyle skiing and snowboarding are set to benefit when final funding decisions for the next four-year cycle are made in July.
And with the sport’s immediate Olympic future looking secure, Lonsdale very much hopes a lasting legacy can be forged around the country with the class of 2014 inspiring future generations.
“I spoke with lots of people on the way back who have told me they were glued to their televisions during these Winter Olympics,” she said.
“And I hope it encourages people to get to their local dry ski slopes and give these sports a go.
“I hope we have proved that you can reach any level from the facilities we have in the UK.
“We have done a lot of foreign training too but we all started on dry ski slopes and you really can reach any level from that base.”