Belfast Telegraph

There ain't no mountain high enough for Aimee Fuller

This week: Aimee Fuller

By Ali Gordon

Fast-paced is one way to describe Aimee Fuller. As I casually ask how she has been keeping, I am blown away by her response. You don't get a simple "fine, thanks" from the snowboarding ace, that would be much too boring. Instead you get the low-down on everything you may have missed before you've even have a chance to get yourself comfortable.

She is warm, chatty and barely takes a breath when she's talking - an open book and a really lovely girl.

After being flung into the spotlight at last February's Winter Olympics in Sochi, the 23-year-old snowboarder from Holywood made a huge impact on competitors and viewers alike with her fresh attitude to the sport.

She attempted brave tricks, in her first ever Olympics, and after exiting in the semi-final stage, became famous for allowing her excitement to take over in the commentary box when pal Jenny Jones 'nailed it' to secure Team Great Britain's first medal in Sochi, prompting 300 complaints to the BBC.

"I have no regrets about my Olympic performance at all," she insists, both on and off the snow.

"It was all blown out of proportion," she contends.

"The complaints were like 0.01% of the viewers, and I think more people tuned in than during any other event in the Olympics.

"I probably had about five negative comments directed at me and thousands saying it was amazing."

As for her first taste of Olympic competition: "It was a great trial run for the next one and I gave it 100%.

"I qualified at the last minute after being injured so I just told myself to go out and give it everything."

Back home for 10 days on a well-earned break, Aimee adds: "To make the semi-finals in my first ever Olympics isn't bad going.

"I'd hurt my hip a bit leading up to it so I didn't get to fully go for it but I did all the tricks in the air that I wanted to do, I just didn't land them.

"Consistency is so important in snowboarding and I've definitely learned a lot from the whole experience. I loved every minute of it and will do everything in my power to do well the next time around."

But Aimee admits that she underestimated what competing at the Olympics actually meant. She says: "The Olympics is absolutely huge and I don't think I really understood that until I got there. It's such a massive event."

With the qualification process for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, under way next year, the bubbly boarder is determined to return to the event fitter, stronger and even more daring than before.

She reveals: "I just want to keep progressing and pushing myself to do more tricks. I've got two years to really go for it and that's what I'm going to do. These competitions and the Red Bull camps coming up are great opportunities for me to go out and do that."

Aimee has already got off to a good start on the road to qualification, bagging a brilliant top-five finish in last weekend's Pleasure Jam competition in Austria. Her next hurdle will be the Dew Tour early next month which will see the world's best snowboarders descend upon the spectacular mountain range of Breckenridge, Colorado, but she is relishing the challenge.

"I'm the fittest I've ever been so I'm really looking forward to this season. I've been smashing the gym over the last few months and doing a lot of strength and conditioning and seeing the physio a lot when I'm home to try and get as strong as possible for the winter and all the competitions.

"There are five major competitions - the Dew Tour; the X-Games; the World Championships; the Europeans and then the US Open - and it's all about nailing as much as you can in between contests and then going out and pulling off those big tricks when it matters," she explains.

Never one to shy away from new things, Aimee revealed that she has a number of new tricks up her sleeve. But she may not be as fearless as those make her seem...

"I do still get scared, I think everyone does, but it's worth it for the adrenaline rush you get afterwards when you actually master difficult tricks.

"In April I was out in Aspen at a Red Bull camp for 10 days just after the Olympics and managed to land a new trick, a Cab Double 9, which I'd wanted to perfect for ages," beams Aimee, the excitement coming through in her voice.

Only three females have successfully completed the move and I was staggered by the amount of preparation it takes to execute such a difficult manoeuvre.

She explains: "You do everything in stages when you're learning a new trick and Red Bull are really good at that because you'll go out for a training camp and progress your tricks, making sure it's as safe as possible, by rehearsing tricks on a trampoline and with air bags. Then once you're ready, it's about finding the right time and the right conditions and hoping that all the stars line up for you!

"New tricks aren't easy but it's such a thrill to see what you are capable of doing and I get the biggest buzz from it. I just can't wait to get back out there and try new things."

At the same time, Aimee is enjoying her last few days at home in what she describes as the "coffee mecca" that is Holywood.

"I've travelled so much in the last couple of years, it's crazy. I was looking at my British Airways air miles the other day and couldn't believe how much I'd travelled. This sport has given me such amazing opportunities and allowed me to see so many awesome places, like Australia, but I do love coming home.

"It's so far removed from what I do the rest of the time that it's nice just to be able to relax. I go to the gym every day and get to hang out with my boyfriend and my friends which is fun because I'm away for so much of the year.

"I go surfing quite a lot when I'm back in Northern Ireland and I spent a lot of the summer at Cable and Wake (a waterskiing and wakeboarding facility) at Titanic Slipways which is awesome - it's a really cool place to hang out in Belfast."

Fuller moved from Bromley in south east London to the north Down town seven years ago, and while her choice of career may have initially raised a few eyebrows, she was determined to succeed.

"I grew up near a dry slope in Bromley and skied there since I was four. We went skiing as a family when I was a kid and I absolutely loved it. Then when I was 16 I begged my mum and dad to send me to a snowboard camp and that's where I got noticed (by the Roxy Europe team).

"I was at Sullivan at the time and got onto the British Junior Team and things just went from strength to strength from there. I saw it as something I could do as a career and I just put everything into it.

"I managed to get all my A-Levels at Sullivan and then two weeks later I was out with Roxy Europe, living my dream.

"My main priority is snowboarding at the minute but I wouldn't rule out the whole commentating thing.

"I had so much fun doing it at the Olympics and it's always something I've had an interest in but my focus is on becoming the best snowboarder I can be. I've still got a lot left in the tank.

"I never thought I'd get to where I am now and actually be doing what I'm doing as a job. It's a lot of really, really hard work and early mornings but it is so rewarding.

"When you leave for a day on the mountains, it's still dark but when you reach the top of a mountain and the sun starts to come up, now that is worth getting up for."

As golfing hero, fellow Holywood native and Sullivan ex-pupil Rory McIlroy continues his reign as world number one, Aimee's success also shows no sign of slowing down. She laughs: "I don't know what it is about Sullivan, there must be something in the Holywood air."

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