Charlotte Bankes believes she is peaking at the perfect time as she looks to take her blistering Word Cup form on to the Winter Olympic stage.
The Hemel Hempstead-born snowboard cross sensation is the current World Cup leader and reigning world champion, ensuring she heads to Beijing with that rarest of tags for a Brit arriving at a Winter Games – favourite for gold.
The 26-year-old is not weighed down by the expectation and while she knows the pressure will ramp up a notch next month, is confident she can take it in her stride.
“This year has been going really well,” said Bankes, one of over 1,000 athletes able to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.
“I’ve had the best season I’ve ever had so I’m really happy with that – not just the results, but how I’m riding.
“I’m getting to the level on race day that I’m reaching in training, which is what we’ve been focusing on in the past couple of years.
“There’s always going to be a bit more pressure at an Olympics, everyone’s watching and it’s the only time in four years everyone sees our sport.
“That’s what brings on the pressure, that and trying to put on the best show for all those people watching, those who have got up early to watch back home.
“On the other hand, the race itself is the same as a World Cup event – all the best girls will be there bringing their a-game. I’ll give my best on the day and won’t give up until I cross that finish line.”
This is Bankes’ third Olympics but her first as a Team GB athlete, the Hertfordshire-born ace having represented France in 2014 and 2018.
She contemplated giving up the sport following a fifth-placed finish four years ago but joining the GB Snowsport set-up has given her a new lease of life - with Bankes now expected to add to the 1,000-plus medals achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997.
And she said: “I wasn’t happy in the system I was in and saw the chance to do something new.
“For me, it was the start of a new career and it’s gone really well.
“They [former France teammates] are disappointed I’m not part of their team but they realise I wouldn’t have had this success [if I had stayed].
“I wasn’t in a good mindset there and everything has changed with the support from GB Snowsport.
“Being in a good environment has helped – the work we’ve put in is paying off and everything is coming together.”
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