Katie Ormerod flying high at top her game with Beijing Olympics in her sights

KATIE ORMEROD is used to high altitudes but the Brighouse-born snowboard world champion will have to get acclimated to life on top of the mountain after conquering her sport at the age of just 22.

FLYING HIGH: Katie Ormerod goes over a jump during the Women's Snowboard Slope Style Qualifications at the 2020 US Grand Prix in January at Mammoth, California. Picture: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

She became the first British snowboarder to win a FIS Crystal Globe and only the second person from these shores to achieve the feat as she was confirmed as the snowboard slopestyle world champion in March.

The coronavirus outbreak curtailed the world cup season, after Ormerod had secured five podium spots and amassed 2,600 points, 400 more than her nearest rival to be confirmed overall champion.

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The 22-year-old is the first British woman to win a FIS Crystal Globe and has become a world champion just two years after splitting her heel, an injury which almost ended her career.

Ormerod required seven operations and a full year of rehab to overcome the injury which happened on the eve of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“It felt amazing. I have always wanted to win a Crystal Globe and to win it in my comeback season after having a horrendous injury and a full year of rehab, is great,” Ormerod told The Yorkshire Post.

“It has been the best season of my career with five World Cup podiums and then I was able to top it off with the overall title.

“I am the first Briton to do it and that was all in my comeback year. It was literally the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I am super happy to be the champion.”

Ormerod unwrapped her first snowboard on Christmas Day when she was five-years-old and despite there being a lack of snow resorts in the United Kingdom, that has not stopped her reaching the top.

She burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old, narrowly missing out on a spot at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

In the same year, she was the first female snowboarder to execute a double cork 1080 which involves three rotations and two inverted flips.

In November 2016, she finished third at the Big Air World Cup in Pyeongchang and a few months later in January 2017 won the Big Air World Cup event in Moscow.

Katie Ormerod with her Crystal Globe. Picture submitted.

In the same month she took home a bronze medal in the Women’s SlopeStyle at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

Ormerod got her first taste of the sport on a dry slope in Halifax and now hopes that more people will be inspired to step onto a snowboard in the coming years.

“I am really hoping that this will inspire a lot of people to get into snowboarding,” she continued.

“We don’t have snow resorts in Britain but I have proven you don’t need that to be the overall champion.

Katie Ormerod stands on the podium in February after coming third in the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Finals at the 2020 US Grand Prix in Mammoth, California. Picture: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“I hope people look at it and think if I can do it, all they need to do is put their mind to it as well. I am hoping that I can inspire lots of people to follow their dreams.”

Ormerod put little pressure on herself ahead of her comeback in August 2019.

She was just delighted to even get back on the slopes as she admitted there were times when she was unsure if she would ever be able to compete again.

She said: “When I first came back I was just so excited to be snowboarding again because during my rehab I didn’t know whether I would be because it was a really bad injury.

“I didn’t know whether I could make a full comeback so I just worked super, super hard because I wasn’t going to let that be an option; to not ever snowboard again.

“When I did my first World Cup I was just so excited to be stood at the top of the gates.

HIGH HOPES: Katie Ormerod, pictured during training in 2018 before injury later ruled her out of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after suffering a severely fractured right heel. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

“I didn’t really think about the result, I was just so happy to be there and doing what I love.

“I think having that mindset really helped me throughout that season, just to have fun and focus on my snowboarding.

“I was focusing on the type of riding I wanted to do, tweaking little bits of my tricks and it really paid off.

“I ended up having the best season of my career and I think it was down to that mindset.

“It was halfway through the season when realised I could win the overall, as I had three yellow bibs, which meant I was the overall leader.

“That was the most amazing feeling, I have never wanted to win something so badly.

“I was fully set on winning it as soon as I knew I had the chance but I was just happy to be snowboarding again.”

Ormerod trains all over the world as she moves around with each event.

She has rode the slopes in places like New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland and prior to the coronavirus outbreak would spend six to seven hours a day practising on the snow.

That would be followed by a session in the gym but during the postponement of sporting events across the world, Ormerod has been doing the majority of her training from her back garden.

The 22-year-old has been hosting live stretching sessions on social media and uses a skateboard to practise her tricks.

She added: “I chop my training into different bits throughout the day. I do a leg strength session, a core session, some cardio and then I am really lucky that I have now got a skate ramp in my garden. I have now got a snowboard jib set up, which is a rail I can practice my tricks on so that is keeping me busy.

“Skateboarding is really good for board control and little techniques, it is definitely useful for snowboarding.

“You can learn techniques like bending your knees and ollies – if you can ollie on a skateboard you can ollie on a snowboard.

“It is quite transferable and is a good workout as well.”

During her rehab, Ormerod spent a lot of time visualising tricks and runs in her head.

Without being able to practise on the snow, it was a tactic that paid off as she was able to be competitive on her return to action.

“I put a lot of hours into my training to make my tricks consistent,” she added.

“When I was injured, I spent a lot of time visualising the tricks that I wanted to do.

“Because I thought about it so much in my head, when I finally got on the snow it came automatically. My snowboarding was way better than before I was injured because I had thought about it so much.

“I was doing tricks I had never done in competitions before, such as my double backflip.

“That was one I started doing in my competitions and what helped me to podium in them.

“So practise and visualising the tricks, and switching up my snowboarding all contributed.

“The judges score you on difficulty, execution, amplitude and landing, they use those four things to score you.

“That is basically how high you go, how difficult your trick is and how well you land it.

“You also have flow score, by assessing how your run fits together.

“I am always super confident because when I am at the top of the drop in, I know I am in the best shape and that I have done everything I can to do the best run I can do.”

Great Britain have competed in 23 Winter Olympic games since 1924, picking up just 11 gold medals in that time and 31 medals overall.

Ormerod was one of Team GB’s top medal hopes prior to her untimely injury in Pyeongchang.

She now hopes to be fully fit for the 2022 games in Beijing, where a gold medal will be on the agenda.

“It would be nice,” she said of her potential to become an Olympic champion.

“I just need to keep the same mindset I had this season because it paid off by going into it having fun, focusing on my snowboarding and hopefully the result will come with that.”

Great Britain has never had a gold medallist in snowboarding, but that is no daunting fact for Ormerod, who is a specialist at hitting new heights.