Recently I had a conversation with my friends about talent and it’s safe to say that I am not one of the lucky bunch described as ‘talented’. Don’t get me wrong I have some great skills; I can write a damn good essay, I can read a three hundred paged book in less than three hours and I can bake some seriously tasty cakes. This conversation made me think about what it really means to be talented, what it constitutes and how much of a privilege it is to be described as such. Now Sophie Offord, Leeds University’s second year History student, is the epitome of talented. This girl has an innate skiing capability which is striking; not only does she boss the slopes, but she destroys the rails and the kickers too. Where I can barely parallel turn, Sophie is literally flying on skis. Recently crowned as the double gold medallist at the 2013 BUSC (British Universities Snowsports Council) finals, Sophie Offord currently holds the position of best undergraduate female freestyle skier in the country. Now that is something to tuck under your belt. If you don’t find her at Castleford midweek then you’ll no doubt spot her on campus from her marvellous skiing tan. Simply look for the sharp contrast between the dark brown and the white goggle marks. It’s hard to miss. I guess that’s what three weeks skiing does to you…hard life ey. Her Campus had the privilege to speak to Sophie about her recent winnings, her skiing life and her future plans.
When did you first get into skiing? And more specifically freestyle skiing? When you started, did you expect to be competing in such complex national competitions?
I think the first time my parents plonked me on skis must have been when I was 2… they were these plastic things with straps to attach your shoes and I just waddled around in them… ever since then I’ve been skiing all my life.Freestyle skiing more specifically must have been when I was about 15. I can remember watching an edit of Tanner Hall and was hooked. I started going to the freestyle nights every week at Castleford Snowdome and went from there really.I probably progressed the most on my season before university; there wasn’t much snow that season so I just skied the park all day everyday which really helped and I competed in a few comps over there.And now being involved with Leeds Snowriders has opened up a lot of opportunities to compete… When I first started I never thought I would actually be any good at it!
I’ve heard on the grapevine that you have recently been sponsored by some different companies? What exactly does this mean for you?
Well I am on the BUSC elite athlete team which is pretty cool.Got a couple of others up my sleeve hopefully for the near future!Being sponsored is pretty much the dream for any freestyle skier!
What is it like competing in such a male dominated sport? Have you experienced any gendered inequality?
Yes freestyle skiing is such a male dominated sport, I don’t think I have ever seen a gap in ability between what the top men at this sport can do against what the women can do… and further down the gaps even bigger, for example at university competitions you see the boys throwing cork 9s and the girls just throwing 360s.I do think it’s starting to change though, there are so many more girls coming into the sport and we are starting to see athletes such as Lisa Zimmerman and Great Britain’s Katie Summerhayes throwing some really impressive tricks. On the uni side of things Leeds Snowriders have held a couple of ‘Girls Nights’ at the Snowdome to try and encourage girls to give freestyle skiing a go which were a big success.I really do think it is important to ski with guys though, some of my best skiing has come from skiing with guys and watching their style and what they can do and then going on to push myself!
Now that you are the best undergraduate female freestyle skier in the country, where do you go from here? What is next for you?
Well university competition wise we have the Christie cup coming up between Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool which is good fun. But in the summer I am looking to compete in the English championship series, and then I am off to Les Deux Alpes for some summer skiing and a bit of training.I am pretty lucky as I have another year to compete in the university champs.I am currently just looking to keep progressing and having fun and see where it takes me!
Although you are currently a Leeds University student studying a BA in History, could you see yourself working within your sport once you have graduated? If so, how will your history degree benefit you?
Yes definitely, I have said throughout uni that after I graduate I won’t be happy unless I am working in the ski industry.I am currently planning to do seasons again after university, but in the long run I have been looking at getting into events and maybe journalism, and I have written a few articles for Racer Ready, BoardGirl and Skiing magazine.But the industry is all about who you know, and all in all, having a history degree isn’t going to hurt!
So there she is in all her glory. Keep your eyes peeled people; this girl is one to watch. I have no doubt she’ll be a professional freestyle skier before she’s even graduated.
To find out more information about University skiing competitions then see http://www.buscevents.com/.
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