26 February 2016

Madi Rowlands named Sports Aid Athlete of the Month FOllowing YOWG success

It’s been a life-changing couple of weeks for freestyle skier Madi Rowlands after she made history by becoming the first Team GB athlete to ever win a medal on snow at the Winter Youth Olympics. That moment came when she took gold in the women’s ski halfpipe on the third day of the Games before following up and claiming bronze in the women’s ski slopestyle later that week. Madi suddenly found herself appearing on BBC Breakfast, CBBC Newsround and BBC local radio to cap off a whirlwind experience representing Team GB in Lillehammer!

Madi, 15, from Maidstone, was the only SportsAid athlete to contend for medals on two fronts at the Games. Prior to competing, Madi had said she'd have 'never seen myself being at the Winter Youth Olympics' and that 'it's an honour in itself to be selected' to represent Team GB. For Madi, it doesn’t feel that long ago that she began freestyle skiing.

“I've been freestyle skiing since I was about eight or nine,” said Madi who became the youngest ever winner of the British Women's Slopestyle Championships in 2013. “I got into it through my brother because one of his skiing instructors took him to the park and I just sort of followed. I actually started skiing when I was two as my family basically pushed me down a slope!”

Madi spends much of her time training in Les Deux Alpes in France during the winter months and had said in the lead-up to Lillehammer that she had been ‘amazed’ at her progress and that ‘everything had been worthwhile even if I don’t come away with a medal’. Madi’s elation was there for all to see after winning gold at the Oslo Vinterpark.

"I couldn’t be happier,” said Madi after blowing away the rest of her competitors with the two best runs of the competition. “It’s just so overwhelming. It was nerve wracking to wait for the others to finish but I felt like I had done enough. I was so stoked with that first run and to land it like I did meant I was able to relax more and not be so nervous in the second and third.”

Madi qualified for the Winter Youth Olympics having competed in the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Valmalenco where she came seventh in the halfpipe and sixth in the slopestyle. Before heading out to Lillehammer, she revealed that she had a pre-competition superstition, and that she hadn’t been able to get much rest as she couldn’t wait to get started.

"I always sleep in my lucky t-shirt before competing!” said Madi. “I've owned it since I was nine when I won my first competition in England. I've not been able to sleep because I've been so excited about getting a feel for it. I'll just be focusing on my performance as I'd always rather be happy with what I'm doing than looking at other people and getting concerned with what they're up to."

Her approach clearly worked wonders as she doubled her medal haul with bronze at the Hafjell Freepark. A total score of 67.80 after her two runs saw her finish five points clear of fourth spot. Madi’s parents Daran and Karen had come out to watch her in the slopestyle without telling her and were both understandably over the moon to see their daughter win her second medal.

“I’m absolutely gobsmacked and I can’t believe that we’re here to see it as well which will be a total surprise for her!” said Daran, whose son Michael trains with the Great Britain elite squad and has been supported by SportsAid in the last four years (Prudential and then TASS). “Secretly she’ll be happy we're here but she’d never tell us that!”

Madi, while being completely unaware her mum and dad had seen her win bronze, said they ‘went mental over one so I don’t know what they’re going to do about two!’ when asked what her parents would make of her second medal in a week. Madi now has bigger ambitions with clear targets set for the future.

“It’s special as I haven’t been on the podium that much,” she commented. “I’m definitely going to continue and try and make it to the real Olympics. It’s been a good experience. There are two main competitions I ultimately want to get to - the X Games and then the Olympics. This is a great step towards that and I’m just so stoked to win.”

Madi, who has received SportsAid Awards in 2014, 2015 and 2016, said the charity’s support has made a big difference. She said: "I went to a SportsAid workshop and got to meet the other athletes and I was like ‘wow!’ You find out what everybody does - it's a good feeling being together. I used my SportsAid Award towards mainly accommodation and competition fees. It has been a big help."

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