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Leeds Met graduate and skiing champ set for Winter Olympics

Leeds Metropolitan University graduate and British ski halfpipe champion James Machon said he "still can't believe" he will be competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

23-year-old James Machon from Sheffield who graduated in Sports Performance last summer from Leeds Metropolitan University  will leave for Russia next week where he will be competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Speaking about the moment he found out he'd made Team GB, James said: "The official list of athletes was published at 6am on the 22 January. I woke up as my phone was going crazy with all the Twitter notifications; I received a text from my coach Pat Sharples telling me I had made the Olympic team. I still can't believe it. I knew I had a good chance of making Team GB after the last World Cup in Breckenridge, as I had met all of the criteria. Although I had to wait a week after until the official announcement, so it was a long wait. I don't think I will believe it until the Olympics has finished and I'm back at home."

James won the British Halfpipe Championships for four consecutive years and is one of 56 British athletes who will compete in Sochi from February 7-23. He and his brother Robert, aged 21, have been competitive skiers and part of the England Team since the ages of 13 and 15.

"It is great to have Rob as a brother and training partner," said James. "We have coached each other since we started skiing, and because we are brothers we can give each other honest feedback. We know each other's limits and the right amount to push each other. Rob is currently in his final year studying Sports Coaching at Leeds Met. During my degree I didn't spend as much time at the University as I would have liked due to my commitment to my sport, but I enjoyed meeting everyone on my course. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in many different sports and to meet new people. It has been beneficial and I have learned a lot which has already helped in my skiing and future career.

"This is the first time Ski Halfpipe is in the Winter Olympics which makes it extra special. It has been my dream to be an Olympian since I was young. I've been working towards this for six years. I'm just so happy to have qualified for Team GB as eight months ago it was looking virtually impossible after I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus."

James, who is currently at home in Sheffield and will leave for Russia next week, continued: "Physically I'm in the best shape I've ever been, I worked really hard to get back on skis after a 12 month recovery. The last World Cup in Breckenridge was the best I've ever skied, so I can go to Sochi and just enjoy it: that's when I ski my best. The most important competition of my career was the last Olympic qualifier in Breckenridge in January. I only competed in three of 10 qualifiers over the last 18 months due to my injury, so I was not able to easily rank up the overall points for my Top 30 World ranking, part of the qualifying criteria. I was ranked 32nd so the pressure was on, I added a new trick in my run, the unnatural 1080, which scored a personal best and I moved into 29th in the World standings. That was a massive day for me."

  • Date published: 31st January 2014
  • Written by: David Ruiz
  • Photography by: Nick Atkins



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