Emily Sarsfield is a British Ski and Snowboard (BSS) Athlete, heralded as the first British Female skier to win the Skiing Europa World Cup Race. Ski-Cross is an exciting new area of snow sports, and Emily has been at the brunt of its extreme nature. Racing through big drops, jumps, rollers and bank turns, Emily has narrowly escaped career-threatening injuries and is set to compete at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
Image: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images Europe
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the sport?
I’m Emily Sarsfield and I do a free-style event called Ski-Cross which is a downhill race with 4 people competing head-to-head over an obstacle course. First one across the finish line wins, but you’ve got a load of jumps and rollers and all sorts on the way down. I got into skiing on a family holiday – our family would sack off the beach and go to the mountains instead. I had an older sister and always wanted to do what she did, so I was always pushing myself or she was always pushing me to get better. Now it’s my sport and my job which is amazing.
How did it feel when you became the first British Female skier to win the Skiing Europe World Cup Race?
It’s quite interesting because I didn’t realise I was the first British female to win the Europe Cup. Once I found that out I was like “oh my god that’s actually quite an achievement”! But, it actually came off the back of missing the Olympic games that year. I’d missed out on going to the Olympic games in Vancouver from a knee injury, but I knew I was skiing to form and I was there, but people were like “you’re a real risk taker” so I decided not to take that risk. So to actually come back and win that cup was a bit of a ‘told you so’!
Are you on track to go back to the next Olympics?
Fingers crossed, yeah! Me and Olympics haven’t always gone hand-in-hand, and obviously with missing out from injury and last time on the day when Britain chose the invitations and I was dropped. Third time lucky! Hopefully I’ll be there in PyeongChang.
What is your favourite thing about skiing?
The whole feeling that I’m so lucky to get this opportunity. My life wasn’t about just being an athlete, but how can I be an athlete and how can I fund it. So, you’ve got to work hard and take every opportunity that’s there. But I think the best thing is that I’ve got this little plaque on my wall that says, “If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, then you’re lucky enough”. Just that whole environment of the mountains. If I’m having a bad day, then I’ll phone my sister who lives in London and has a real job, and she’ll say, “just look out the window”, and I’m not in Canary Wharf, I’m looking over some mountains and I’m like okay yeah, I’m alright. I’ll shut up.
What’s a typical training day for you?
We’re in pre-season now, so I’ll spend one week in the gym in the UK and then one week out in the mountains and glaciers. So, I’ll spend about 4-5 hours in the gym in the day, doing a mixture of cardio, strength, power and flexibility, and then I’ll have some time doing physio and psychology stuff. Then obviously you’ve got all those other things to fund what you’re doing, so speaking to sponsors and speaking to media and doing all those things, that is real life (which people don’t realise athletes do)! When we’re in the mountains at this time of year we’ve got to make the best of the snow, so we’re up at 6am and get a 4-hour training block in before lunch then absolutely stuff our faces because we’re starving. Then we’ll have a little nap (as it’s compulsory) and do an afternoon work-out. So eat, sleep, ski, eat, sleep, train, eat, sleep…
Do you get very nervous when it comes to conditions?
Yeah, I mean it’s normal to be nervous with my sport as it’s quite an extreme sport. I stand on that starting line and every time I have fear, even on training days. You throw yourself off 30-40m jumps with three people next to you, so any little knock could send you flying. If you’re going to go down, you’re going to go down hard. I think you’re not just nervous because of adrenaline, but because of fear as well. I’d be completely lying if I wasn’t nervous – I am!
Do you have any techniques to deal with these nerves?
You work with your psychologists, and if you’ve been doing it for a while then you kind of just get used to it! Every time there’s always a new challenge; when I came back from a knee injury, that was something extra added onto those nerves. You’ve just got to switch all of that off, and just think if I attack at 100% I’m in a safer position. If I hold back, I’m putting myself at risk. So, as long as you’re going at 100%, you’re not risking anything.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to get into Ski Cross?
Do it! It’s not been an easy track – Ski Cross is quite new, so there hasn’t always been a pathway in. Now BSS have set up a pathway which is amazing, and we’ve got a new coach. There’s opportunities to go out there and do it! Have a good old look online – there are some Ski Cross competitions out there. But being a Ski-Cross athlete is all about being a good all-round skier. Go into your local alpine clubs and get that alpine base, go into the park and learn how to jump, just get used to being in the air and off balance. Just hone in on all your techniques – try everything!
Do you have any favourite places to go to in London?
In the summer I have to fund my sport, so I convert shipping containers into things like bars and useable spaces, but mostly bars. We’ve got a bar, coffee shop and kitchen in Canary Wharf called 640EAST, and it’s just made out of shipping containers and old recycled materials. So yeah, I hang out in 640EAST!
Delancey are proud to be the headline sponsor of British Ski and Snowboard, which is the National Governing Body for Skiing and Snowboarding in the UK. They provide incredible opportunities for athletes to achieve their full potential in the sport – both as individuals, and as a team. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we meet more young members of BSS.