Within the past few hours, Team GB have confirmed their final squad of 50 competitors for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Sadly, nobody from Derbyshire will be represented at the Winter Games. This means that Ashbourne's ski cross racer Isobel Brown will have to wait another four years for the opportunity to represent Team GB at a Winter Olympics.
Despite this disappointment, there are at least two winter sports athletes from Derbyshire who could well feature at the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy. Along with ski cross's Isobel Brown, Derby's Freya Tarbit is also a big hope in the sport of skeleton. Freya recently competed at the Skeleton World Junior Championships in Austria and the 21 year-old finished in a highly respectable tenth position overall out of a final field of 20.
The future looks bright for winter sports within the county and we were able to catch up recently with Ashbourne's Isobel Brown and find out more about the sport of ski cross, how she got started in the sport and what her ambitions are for the future.
The 22 year-old competed in the ski cross event at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Norway and finished in 16th position. But how did Isobel get started with ski cross?
"I've always skied since I was young. We went on family holidays and stuff like that. We used to always go to Austria but then one year, for a change, we went to France. This was around ten or so years ago. The people at the ski course there asked me to come back and race with them. That's when I started racing. It was in 2014 when I was watching the Winter Olympics at Sochi that I really started getting into ski cross - and it's sort of just gone from there really."
Like many winter sports athletes, Isobel's main sporting inspiration is a very familiar face and one of the biggest superstars winter sports has ever produced:
"My sporting inspiration was Lindsey Vonn. I think a lot of people have Lindsey as their inspiration. It was just the fact that no matter what happened and no matter what injuries she had, she always came back stronger. I've always found her really inspirational."
The sport of ski cross made its debut at the Winter Olympics in 2010 and is now regarded as the one of the most exciting and unpredictable sports that the Winter Olympics has to offer. Since its introduction 12 years ago, the sport has been a big hit with crowds and television audiences which is no surprise given the dramatic nature of the event. For those unfamiliar with ski cross, Isobel has a great comparison for it:
"So I think the easiest way to describe ski cross is that it's a bit like BMX biking but on skis. I think that's probably the easiest way to visualise it. At the start of a ski cross event, you have an individual time trial. From there, the fastest 30 qualify for the next round. That's where you have the head-to-head contests where four racers go against each other in each race. You just keep going, until you get to a final winner...it's anyone's game. There's always a favourite at each event but the favourite doesn't always win." "You have three other racers that you're contending with. If any one of them falls, they could also take you out as well. That's what makes the sport interesting."
Isobel was also asked how accessible the sport of ski cross is, how many events she will enter over the course of a typical year and what the future holds for her:
"Ski cross is a little challenging to get started in. There are places, like in Castleford, where they have indoor ski cross training sessions. But because, generally, big jumps are involved in the sport as well as big rollers, it is quite hard to get into in the UK. But there are quite a few pathways to skiing in the UK, so there is always a stepping stone to the next level." "I try to enter a ski cross event once every week. It will usually be on a Wednesday or Saturday - it depends on work and also how long the season is. It's hard to give a number off the top of my head but it's usually one event every week from December until April."
"I'm currently going through the process of becoming a skiing instructor, so that's certainly something I'd like to accomplish within the next few years. The rest is just to continue competing and see where I can go with that."
Derbyshire Media Company will, of course, bring you up to date with the latest news, events and reaction for our local winter sports athletes as the year progresses.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics begins on the fourth of February and ends on the 20th of February. Make sure to catch the ski cross events which promises to be one of the most exciting sports at the Games once again!