The concept of writing an article as I lie in bed in quarantine feels ineffable. I suppose this is why it’s such a brilliant time to write and read about sport to keep entertained during these times.
My name is Jack Gower, I’m an alpine skier from Britain and race Downhill and SG on the World Cup circuit. To break it down, I’m trying to go as fast as possible from the top to bottom of a mountain, preferably without crashing.
Before preparation for the ‘white circus’, I am having my annual compulsory two weeks off, a process that every athlete goes through to rest and unwind. Having quarantined myself at home, it is imperative that I stay physically fit and my sitting room is beginning to resemble the set of the new ‘pumping iron’ movie.
At the conclusion of these two weeks (coronavirus permitting), I will sit down and speak with a team that is put together by the BOA (British Olympic Association), which will consist of trainers, physios etc. It is well known on the skiing circuit that the smaller the BOA team the better as it means you are healthy as no doctors are included.
It is at this point that the work beings! Training normally consists of four hours a day unless you are going through a bulking stage which will only require 2 hours a day. Through a bulking phase I will be consuming over 5000 calories a day aiming for 6000. To reach these targets I have to plan 6 meals a day and a shake. The diet and training have to co-exist and work towards the decided goal to gain the results that are required. As a little insight to one of our most sickening workouts we load the bar with 150kg and complete 10 reps of full set squats followed by lunges to failure, this is then repeated for 5 sets. After this you have the next 90mins of challenging exercises to complete before you slump into your car to head home.
My summers are spent at camps in glaciers or in the Southern Hemisphere, normally Chile. These times are crucial for testing equipment and will ultimately shape how the season looks. Working closely with ski manufactures during this period is crucial. I am sponsored by Salomon and I’m fortunate to receive a lot of support from the company equating to roughly 16 pairs of skis a year and 5 pairs of boots, this number increases when times are tough and I have to search for answers as to why I’m not skiing fast.
At the end of October, I will be packing my bags alongside the other athletes for what will be a 6-month stint away from home with a couple of weekends back to see family and friends. I have been skiing since I was two and competing for the British Ski Team since I was 14. Although I absolutely love what I do, it meant I missed about half my school GCSE year. This then increased to roughly two thirds of the year during my A levels. In many respects the greatest sacrifices have come from my family who gave up holidays and so much time to help me pursue my dreams. Everything I have achieved has been a result of the encouragement and support I have received since I was 10 years old.
Sport is a funny world and one I think of as a big university. All the athletes, doctors, physios etc are people I have grown up with and consequently I know them very well. When away from home they are like my second family and we see each other at our peaks and troughs. This results in a lot of my closest friends coming from the tour.
The tour starts in North America, this is great for two reasons: everyone speaks English and the annual Champagne popping contest! This contest is a marketing tool deployed by a sponsor to attract high profile athletes and celebrities to come watch the race. Unfortunately, I still have a low profile as an athlete and am definitely not a celebrity! However, because I compete in the race it buys me an automatic ticket to the event. Last time I attended the champagne popping contest, I managed to walk away with the win, multiple bottles of champagne and a massive cheque of $2,500!
After North America, the races heat up and by February all guns are blazing. Everyone is preparing for the legendary Kitzbuhel Downhill. This place has made more careers than anywhere else, but it has also taken the lives of more racers than anywhere else… a hard point to put out of your mind as the race draws near. 80,000 spectators amass for this race. Limited pathways for athletes and teams means that athletes still have to wade through crowds to get to the start. All your effort and emotions go into remaining calm and keeping your mind on what you need to do. When you are in the start gate your whole body is twitching telling you not to go but when you push out the gate everything calms down and years of training take over. Going through the finish is a feeling I will never forget; a euphoric relief rushes over you and as soon as the intensity calms, the fatigue sets in. The final feeling that I feel is anger as I reflect on how I should have performed at a higher level as it is always possible to do better. Now, with cameras, I try to deal with everything internally although growing up I wasn’t afraid to let competitors and spectator know how I felt! I am already look forward to doing it all again next year!
There are a lot of probable’s in skiing. You will crash! You will break bones! You will tear ligaments! You will go through some tough times! but you will also create some of your dearest memories!
I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe during these times and hope to see you all out doing what you love soon.
Results to date:
– British Champion
– United States of America Champion
– Junior World Champion
– South American Cup Champion