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Zoe Gillings defies odds to finish 7th in Snowboard World Championships.

If you were to look up the meaning of the word “Determined” in OED, you would probably find a picture of Zoe Gillings there. Gillings, who is one of the brightest hopes of British snowsports, finished 7th in the recent Snowboard World Championships, held in La Molina in Spain, despite having to overcome some significant obstacles in order to stay on form. The result in Spain moves Zoe up the elite world rankings by one place (she was ranked 8th at the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics) and demonstrates aptly that natural talent is difficult to suppress.

The snowboarding career of the 25-year-old British extreme sportswoman had seemed threatened in 2010, following funding delays resulting from the Coalition cuts, but Zoe, who is originally from the Isle of Man, was not going to be defeated. She essentially became her own couch and continued to train with limited resources. Funding issues caused her to miss out on competing in a number of key international events, which would have provided invaluable experience and training, but this merely underlines just how significant her achievement in Spain was. Despite having to scale back her competitive activities considerably, she managed to improve her overall performance. Few professional athletes could achieve such a feat.

The question that is concerning the British Extreme Snowsports community is what will happen once funding for skiing and snowboarding are withdrawn entirely? The Coalition Government has recently reviewed UK Sports funding and has decided that funding for these sports will be withdrawn. Zoe is currently attempting to have her case individually reviewed; her recent success will provide a good basis for this. She is rightly determined to be at 2014 Winter Olympic Games and is equally determined to come away with a medal. Even if an exception is made for Zoe, which we hope it is, the future of British snowsports is looking precarious. At a time when the we have some of the most exciting new talents we have ever had, Britain’s presence and participation in international snowsports events is more at risk then ever.

Hats off to Zoe for demonstrating so much determination and being an inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, given the country’s financial woes, Zoe’s achievement is unlikely to mark the beginning of a bright new future for British extreme snowsports. It looks like we’ll be returning to the dark days of the 1980s. Anyone remember Eddie the Eagle?

** Photo By Martin Tremper **

Tags: 2012 British Team, 2012 Olympics, Extreme Sports, Skiing, Snow & Ice, snow sports, Snowboarding, Sports Funding Review, Zoe Gillings

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