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Zoe Gillings Interview

The British snowboarding sensation Zoe Gillings is gearing up for a busy winter season. We chat rehab, role models and leaping out of planes…

Age: 23

From: Isle of Man

How did you get into snowboarding?
I started skiing when I was three years old and then got pretty bored of it by the time I was 10. By that time my elder brother was snowboarding and I wanted to try it as a bit of a challenge… I got hooked and I’ve only skied for about a week in total since then!

When did you decide to snowboard full time?
When I was 16 I decided I wanted to go and do a full winter season with a coach, so – with my parents help – we found one and I spent the winter out in Canada with him. I came on leaps and bounds that season!

Do you consider yourself to be an adrenaline junkie?
Yeah, I am totally an adrenaline junkie! I am currently trying to get a deal on my first sky dive (tandem of course).

Can you give us a run down of your average day?
In the summer I spend about three hours in the gym and spend the rest of my time doing sports psychology work, with the physiotherapist or doing e-mails and stuff. In the winter I will be training on snow for about 4-5 hours then in the gym in the afternoon, in the evening I will try and get some down time and then an early night.

And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
I would love to go somewhere where you could go snowboarding in the morning then surfing in the afternoon.

What are your plans for this summer?
I am based in Bath for most of the summer but in September there is a World Cup in Argentina which I will be going to – I’m really looking forward to that.

Where is your favourite spot?
I like Valle Nevado in Chile, I may be a bit biased on that one though because every time I go there I do well in the competition!

How do you prepare for a big competition?
Train, train and train some more!

Do you still get nervous before a big contest?
Yeah I get super-nervous. I have a lot of breathing and visualization routines I can do to control my nerves so they don’t affect me in a negative way. If I am ever not nervous for a competition, I will get very worried.

What is the atmosphere like behind the scenes?
It’s pretty friendly really. Most people go into their own little world to prepare just before their run but most of the time everyone is chatting and pretty chilled.

What are your suitcase essentials when you’re on the road?
They would have to be a spare fold-up bag in case my board bag weighs over 32K because no matter what the airline rules are or how much money you spend on excess baggage, no airline will take a bag over 32K. A book. One of those blow up C shaped pillows. My laptop and earphones for watching movies. A hoodie with a big hood so I can cover my eyes with it and sleep (Nike of course). Also a piece of advice: if you ever go around the world, go west, the jet lag is way better going west than it is going east.

Describe your personal style…
Baggy with loads of bright colours which is what the new Nike Women collection, called ‘Her Favourites’ is all about – mixing and matching bold, contrasting colours to create your own favourite style.

Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement with the Nike ‘Here I Am’ campaign?
Zoe Gillings
I am one of the ambassadors of the campaign and what we are trying to do is get more women in the UK into sport. As part of the campaign I am trying to get the message out there that sport is fun, it’s not just a guy thing. You can be a girly and do sport too! It has many benefits other than the obvious physical benefits: after a good session or game your head feels way better and if you’re stressed it can be a great way to empty your mind for a while and give it a rest while your body does all the work. One of the things I am encouraging girls to do is to look at the wide range of sports there are – there are thousands of them so it’s worth having a look around. I guarantee you will find one you like.

What have been your biggest career setbacks?
I shattered my foot into loads of little pieces back in 2005 and was told I would never snowboard again, I didn’t listen and went through eight months of rehab before getting back on a board. It still bothers me now if I ride or walk for a long time but I am doing what I want to be doing and a little pain isn’t going to stop me.

What have your greatest achievements been so far?
Winning the World Cup in Chile 2005, and getting to the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006 just 11 months after breaking my foot. Another highlight was finishing 7th in the world last season after not having a coach for half the season.

Who or what are your inspirations?
Muhammed Ali once said: “make the days count, don’t count the days”.

What affect does your career have on your personal life?
Because I am traveling around a lot it does make it quite difficult to keep in touch with friends but on the other hand I have met loads of cool people along my travels.

How do you relax when you get the chance?
When I am in the UK I like to go to the cinema, if I am away my favorite thing to do is chill out in the team apartment with the other guys watching a movie or playing cards.

What’s up next for you?
I am at the first World Cup in Argentina in September then the season starts properly in December. This season I have the World Championships as well as about seven World Cups and the X Games. It’s gonna be busy!

Watch Zoe in action here!


Action photo by: Yves Garneau

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