It’s a rainy Sunday morning and I’m jumping up and down in my kitchen while trying to type JUMPING UP AND DOWN into the Cooler live blog. A second later tears are streaming down my face which I tweet and facebook post about; the response, combined with the highly emotional BBC iPlayer commentary, makes me realise I’m not the only one in bits. The whole country is*. This is history. Jenny Jones has just won the first ever Team GB snow medal at a Winter Olympics and we’re experiencing it 2014-stylee, intensely and via the Internet. It’s sensory overload.
A day later and there are more tears at the newsagents as I see Jenny’s face shining out from every newspaper’s front page. Two weeks and a day later, we’re at Heathrow Airport for the post-Sochi Team GB Welcome Home Press Conference, interviewing Jenny [scroll down to watch the video interview]. And yep there are more tears all round!
I ask Jenny how she felt about the mad reaction to her Bronze Medal, which included her being interviewed on just about every primetime TV and radio show back home, while adding about 70K twitter followers in the process. She said, “It’s been a whirlwind, an amazing and unexpected experience.”
Those of you reading this from mainland Europe or even America may think this is an overreaction but to repeat Britain had never won a Winter Olympic medal on snow. Nothing in skiing or snowboarding ever, just a bunch of bobsleigh and curling medals, which although great don’t quite cut the mustard when it comes to inspiring folk back home to get off their asses and take part in something. Since Jenny’s Bronze snowdomes and even dry slopes have been rammed, with winter holiday bookings going through the roof.
Was she shocked with the reaction?
“I was shocked but so stoked that so many people had sat and watched snowboarding slopestyle; enjoyed seeing the tricks, the landings, the excitement, and the skill involved, it was crazy to reach so many folk.”
“And so many of my mates texted to say how proud they were to walk past all the newspaper stands that day hehe and I guess thinking about it, it really is pretty rad to feel that snowboarding made the front pages. And to be one of those people to share it to such a huge audience was something to remember for sure. I was definitely a little bit proud for the day.”
I tell her it shouldn’t matter but that for us the whole thing was extra special because she was a girl…
“I never liked that whole argument of men and women this that and the other, I like the fact our sport is for men and women and we ride together all the time and get involved in checking out the course and doing jumps together in that respect it’s good.”
“But as a woman showing that I could ride this big slopestyle course and be technical and land on my feet and show that I’m doing well in a sport that’s an action sport I think the reaction is…well what I was shocked at was the reaction from so many girls that’s probably because it was all in the papers and on all these front covers, how often do you get snowboarding and a girl on the front cover of a newspaper, how cool is that?”
How had she felt when she first saw the slopestyle course?
“When we first arrived everyone was like, “Whoa!” I just thought this course demands a lot of respect. And I thought at least they haven’t built really small jumps as that would have disappointed me, but even the small side wasn’t small.
So when I first saw the course I thought they’re big great but then riding up that take off, even for me I was like, “They are big jumps…”
But that was great for women’s snowboarding…
“Yeah to show we can hit the same size jumps as the guys that was cool yeah.”
I ask if she’d allowed herself to think about winning a medal and what that might mean before the Olympics?
“I found out two years ago [that slopestyle would be in the Winter Olympics for the first time] so I had ideas of, ‘Could I… couldn’t I?’ Then last December I had quite a bad concussion, so at that point it was like, ‘I just want to be able to go,’ it really was that touch and go! Once I’d achieved that my goal was genuinely to make the final, that’s why I was so nervous in the semi final because to have got there and not even made an Olympic final would have been pretty upsetting.”
Was that why she looked so calm in the final or was that good acting?
“Haha no when you look back at the X Games, that’s how I am at the top of a course, I’m a bit different to how I would be sat here.”
Do you have a strategy to get in that zone?
“I seem to go through the motions and stick to those motions that make me feel comfortable and work for me. I try stay practical and think what do I need to do? I need to eat food, drink water, have a cup of tea…”
As a woman showing that I could ride this big slopestyle course and be technical and land on my feet and show that I’m doing well in a sport that’s an action sport I think the reaction is… well what I was shocked at was the reaction from so many girls, that’s probably because it was all in the papers and on all these front covers, how often do you get snowboarding and a girl on the front cover of a newspaper, how cool is that?
Would 21-year-old Jenny have had the same considered approach?
“No not me. Someone else at 21 might have for sure but I hadn’t done enough competing then.”
How friendly the vibe was between the girls really came across on TV…
“Yeah to us all that’s obviously quite normal but a lot of people remarked on that as if it was something slightly different. It shows that you can be competitive and want to do well and have a go at it but still be quite friendly to the other athletes.”
And when did your medal win sink in?
“When we did the official podium. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness I have done it!’ I’ve spent over 10 years snowboarding and I’ve achieved the X Games and all the goals that I’ve had and this goal has only come about in the last two years but when that goal was set out to me I suddenly thought, ‘Gosh I’m going for this,’ but there was quite a lot at stake really, because I am a little older and I hadn’t got so many podium finishes in that last period of a year or so, I thought am I going to come away regretting ever doing this? But you can’t miss the chance to go to an Olympic Games.
Why is the Olympics more important than the X Games?
“All the way getting to the Olympics I was thinking, ‘What’s this big deal?’ but then I started to get loads and loads of texts and messages before I’d even competed saying we’re going to be watching you doing it for the country and I was like, ‘Ok this is quite a big deal for a lot of people.’
Did you watch the Olympics when you were young?
“The Summer Olympics yeah, the athletics, gymnastics and I always thought it would be so cool to do it in those sports, but in snowboarding it never crossed my mind.”
An MP here made some comments about offering school girls feminine sport options. Can snowboarding be feminine?
“Oh I think there are feminine elements within snowboarding for sure, gymnastics and slopestyle, though does it matter?
Why would you even think about whether it’s feminine or not? Just do whichever floats your boat. There are so many parts to being a woman and sport is just one of them and one which can be quite neglected in this day and age by a lot of girls; it would be nice to see them getting involved again.”
What would you hope the legacy of your medal would be?
“It’s made me super happy to see how many girls and boys have been pumped on snowboarding slopestyle and how it has encouraged them to go and try the sport which is awesome. I hope they are keen to keep going with it or maybe they’ll get more into freeriding or splitboarding or riding street rails whatever really any of it would be wicked.”
“I have also been struck by how many parents have emailed me to say thank you for getting their children excited for sport and getting outdoors. Especially little girls, one dad wrote to say, ‘Thank you my daughter has put down her computer gadgets and strapped on a snowboard!’ with a photo attached of her in the kitchen with all the gear on. So rad. I never realised quite how important it was for young girls to see other girls and women being successful in sport and how much that inspires them but I have really taken note and just hope all these young girls enjoy their experience on the snow and want to go back again.”
The last time we saw Jenny Jones was across a dancefloor in which she was shaking some serious moves with Aimee Fuller. It was her Bronze Medal victory party in London, where the great and the good from snowboarding were there to drink plenty in her honour. The night meant a lot to her, as she says, “Without wanting to sound like a wimp I definitely had a bit of a tough year or so beforehand and a lot of the people at the party were key to helping me hang in there all the way to Sochi. So seeing them all enjoying the moment was great. The best memories are seeing such a collection of mates in one room for a cheeky celebration.”
Jenny Jones would like to thank Salomon, Oakley, Nixon, Pentax cameras, UK Sport & the National Lottery, plus all her friends, friendly and the public for their massive support.
To read more about Jenny Jones and the Winter Olympics head here: coolermag.com/tag/jenny-jones
* Well maybe a third. According to the BBC 33 per cent of people watching TV that morning were watching Jenny Jones in the slopestyle. An audience of over three million