Olympic ambition for ski hopefuls

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The slopes are now deserted, but the legacy of Sheffield Ski Village will be seen at next year’s Winter Olympics in Russia.

Five members of the recently-named nine-strong GB Freestyle Ski team developed their skills at Parkwood Springs.

Until the ski village closed last year, with the private owners blaming high insurance as a result of vandalism and arson attacks, it was the base for Sheffield Sharks. More than 200 youngsters learned to ski or train there.

Now five of them are in the GB squad for World Cup events in New Zealand and America that will determine selection for the Winter Games in Sochi next February when freestyle skiing is being introduced to the Olympics for the first time.

Leading the way are James Woods, who is the world’s top slopestyle skier, and Katie Summerhayes, who is the women’s number five. Both have already qualified. It is a particular achievement for Katie, aged 17, who has recovered from a cruciate knee injury, which left her wondering when she would ski again.

Also aiming for the Olympics selection are James Machon, Peter Speight and Emma Lonsdale, who specialise in the halfpipe.

Both techniques are judged on creativity, variety and tricks as opposed to speed, and Sheffield Ski Village, as the largest outdoor artificial slope in the UK, and the only outdoor halfpipe in the country, was an ideal training ground. A Yorkshire team was built up thanks to coaches Martin Carr and Peter Hanford-Styring.

The Sharks now use the Snowdome in Castleford and the Manchester Chill Factore. Meanwhile the future of the ski village is up in the air, with the council hoping that it can become part of a country park at Parkwood Springs, with outdoor activities to add to the already popular mountain bike track.

Paul Speight, father of Peter Speight and a freestyle skier himself, said the loss of the skl village had been a “disaster”.

Young skiers used to go there two or three times a week, he said. “More than that, it allowed young people to train and to come through. Sheffield was the spiritual home of freeskiing in the UK, but it has drifted away now.”

Council leaders in Sheffield want to promote the area as the UK’s ‘Outdoor Capital’ on the back of activities such as bouldering, climbing, fell running and mountain biking.

Similarly, freestyle skiing is seen as reflecting this spirit of adventure and challenge. GB success in Russia would underline the need to try to replace the ski village.

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