A Few Split Seconds
Britt Cox has become a well-known name in Australian winter sport. Growing up in the Victorian Alpine Resort of Falls Creek, Britt was born into mogul skiing, with her family all passionate mogul skiers. At the age of just 15, Britt announced her arrival on the world stage when she became the second youngest athlete in history to represent Australia at a Winter Olympics, and was the youngest competitor at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Now at 21 years of age, Britt is one of the leading mogul skiers in the world, becoming the first Australian female to win a mogul skiing World Cup medal in February 2012. Britt now has two Olympics Games, three World Championships and two World Cup podiums to her name. She has squeezed more into an athletic career before the age of 21 than most people could even imagine in a whole lifetime. Just two years out from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Britt talks to Chillfactor about her experiences, her goals, and what it takes to be one of the world’s best mogul skiers.
CF: Britt, tell us how it all started. When did you first get on a pair of skis?
BC: I first started skiing when I was about 18-months-old at Falls Creek. It is where my parents met, and where my whole family has grown up. My parents put me on a little pair of plastic skis pretty much as soon as I could walk. Some of my earliest memories are shuffling around on the kitchen floor with these plastic skis on, hoping that Mum and Dad would take me out skiing. I think growing up in that environment just made me hooked.
How early did you get into moguls?
I started racing at Falls Creek Race Club when I was about six-years-old and did it until I was about 14. As I became older, after race training I would just go and ski bumps with my older brother Hamish and some of his friends and just loved the excitement of it. I used to chase my brother around the mountain.
Did you have a mentor growing up or someone that inspired you to want to take mogul skiing to an elite level?
I actually think I’ve had a number of mentors. I always try and find inspiration from everyone around me. Adrian Costa coached me when I was quite young, and he was a four-time Olympic mogul skier for Australia. He inspired me and showed me that mogul skiing was a real option for me. I learned a lot from him. I also looked up to past Australian Champions in the sport such as Alisa Camplin in aerial skiing. I remember watching her in the Salt Lake Olympics and realising that I wanted to be an Olympian and an Olympic Champion. That really drove me to take up mogul skiing professionally. Now I think I look to all athletes across the board, people that inspire me, and I try to take that into my training.
How did you feel about being the youngest competitor at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics?
It’s pretty crazy to think all the way back to Vancouver! I was only 15 at the time, everything was just so overwhelming and I didn’t expect to be there. I only got a call about three weeks before the Games. I took everything in and gained a lot of experience. Going into that environment, I learnt what it would take to progress my skiing to the next level. Sometimes I wonder where my skiing would be now had I not gone to Vancouver because I learned so much. I think it really pushed me through the next four years moving into Sochi.
Tell us about your first World Cup medal in Deer Valley. How did it feel standing on the podium?
My first World Cup medal in Deer Valley, USA, actually happened to be the location of my first World Cup ever, my first World Championships and my first final. So Deer Valley seems to be a place for first times for me! It was the first season that they introduced the super final, where the final four skiers battle it out for the podium. I squeezed into the final four and then put down a solid run to get my first podium finish and it was crazy, it really showed me that I was capable of competing against the top women in the sport, and to do it in front of the Deer Valley Freestyle crowd was super exciting.
Does the super final structure suit you more than the old race format?
I couldn’t say it suits me more because there have been events where I was in a good position and the super final hasn’t helped me. And then in other events it has worked in my favour. Either way, whether there is or isn’t a super final, the best skier on the day is going to be one that comes down and wins. You can still put down the same run in the super final; you just need to keep lifting your game each round. I think the intensity in the final gets higher from all the competitors.
THIS IMAGE: Britt hammering the bumps on her way to a fifth place at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (Cuff) ABOVE: Kicking back at home
in Falls Creek (Hocking)
So physical fitness must play a huge part in sustaining your level of skiing until the final round?
Yeah, physical as well as mental fatigue. As the day goes on, you go through all these competition rounds and then there is one final round, which is the most important.
If you had to choose a favorite moment in your sporting career what would it be?
My favorite moment so far would be my 2015 Freestyle World Championships podium in Kreischberg, Austria. I went into that season having just broken my arm, had to recover quickly and got straight back into it, so I had a less than ideal preparation. The World Championships was the season after the Olympics. A lot of people say that they feel sort of down after an Olympic year, but I felt determined and inspired from it. After missing the first event of the season, I knew I had some ground to cover. Getting to Kreischberg, I felt in the zone and really determined to put down some great skiing and get a result. It’s probably the best skiing I’ve done to date and it was nice to do it at a World Championships event.
You are definitely one to perform under pressure. How did your two Olympic experiences differ: Vancouver 2010 vs. Sochi 2014? Do you anticipate South Korea in 2018 will be a completely different experience again?
For me, my two Olympic experiences were so different because I was so young in Vancouver. Going through adolescence and growing up and learning about the sport and about being an elite athlete, the two experiences were really different. I had started to put some results on the board leading into Sochi so that meant I was coming in not just as a participant but also as a real contender and competitor. I had different goals and was a lot more experienced on the world stage. I also had a different team around me. In Vancouver, I was skiing with some of the guys I had never skied with before and I didn’t have any of my usual teammates around me compared to Sochi. I think this made Sochi a really unique and special experience.
What was your goal going into Sochi?
I feel like with every competition now, I want to win. That was the goal I had in my head going into Sochi. I felt that I really underperformed in qualifications, so I left it right down to the wire. In between qualifications and finals, I realised that this was the Olympics and I had to go for it. I had to let loose in order to ski the way I wanted to. And I somehow managed to flick a switch and had an attitude of “I am just gonna put it all on the line and go for it”. I skied way better than I had in weeks so I was really happy to be able to do it under pressure when I had previously not been skiing well on that course. Then to qualify into the super final as fourth and then finish with a fifth, I was really happy with the result.
You were amazing to watch. So how is the preparation going for the next Winter Olympics in South Korea, 2018?
Preparation is going really well. This year has been a really good year of training, with a lot of training camps and volume. We’ve water ramped in Australia and the US, skied in Australia and in Zermatt. This year, being a non-Olympic or World Championships year, skill development has been a really good focus for our team. I feel like there has been a lot of progress this year, but I guess like a lot of the winter sports you can do a lot of the training and preparation, be in great form coming into an event, but it is really what you do in that final run that counts. So I’m interested to see how I am going to perform in a competition setting this season.
You are known as one of the most dedicated, hard-working, and committed athletes on the Australian Winter team. What drives you to push yourself day in and day out?
For me, my determination and motivation to train hard comes from the desire to reach my goals. Also because I have such a passion for the sport. I love the winter sports community in Australia and together with great people and a great environment around me, it makes training easier. You know, people think I am punishing myself in the gym every day and that kind of thing, but it’s easy for me to motivate myself to do it. I love the hard work, I love the training, but most of all I love the pressure and the competition setting, and I know that sort of hard work and training will reward me with a good result.
I’m sure it will! Jacqui Cooper currently holds the record for most Winter Olympics competed in by an Australian, with five. Are you looking beyond South Korea and do you think you’ll top that?
The other day I was thinking about South Korea, which is only the season after this. It’s only two years away. It just hit me about how soon it is going to come around. I feel like I have so much more skiing and competition in me than two years. I couldn’t possibly imagine finishing up in two years’ time. So, at the moment, Korea is the focus, but I really want to ski for longer than that.
Do you still get nervous before big competitions?
Definitely, but that is the feeling that I love the most, that build-up to competition. I’ve competed so much now that I’ve learnt to channel that nervous energy into adrenaline and I think I have skied better in competition than I have in training. Maybe that’s because I can channel the nerves into a bit of fire to ski harder and jump bigger.
And where is Australian moguls skiing headed?
I think Australian moguls skiing is skyrocketing at the moment. There are so many awesome kids coming up, it has been amazing to see the talent coming through. Being on the National Team, we definitely feel a bit of responsibility to be role models for them and it’s great that we can train at these world-class facilities alongside these kids so that they can see us training in a good environment. The programs that we have here in Australia have created such a strong pathway and I can see great things for mogul skiing in Australia in years to come!
Tommy in full flight some time in the late 60s.