There were mixed emotions for Sheffield’s freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes as she equalled her best-ever Olympic performance but ended the competition in agony.
Seventh on her Games debut in Sochi four years ago, Summerhayes matched that result in Saturday’s high-quality slopestyle final, which saw history made as Britain won its first medal on skis courtesy of Izzy Atkin’s bronze.
Given her preparations, just getting to the final was an achievement for Summerhayes who badly damaged ankle ligaments at the end of last year and had not been able to complete a full alopestyle until training last week.
She was also dealt a further blow on the morning of the competition when she fell in training and aggravated the old injury, raising question marks over whether she would compete.
But the Sheffield skier bravely battled on, coming through qualification before putting down a best run of 71.40 in the final.
“I’m disappointed because I wanted to do better,” she said initially before adding: “I definitely thought I wouldn’t be able to drop in as my ankle was so sore.
“Up until this week I hadn’t completed a slopestyle course since November, so this is my return to snow. In qualification I had to keep it pretty mellow and my ankle was killing me.
“I went up for the finals and decided to push it a bit more because I wanted to do myself justice. I had a crash in training this morning and my physio was questioning whether I should compete. However, this is the Olympics and I wanted to compete.”
It would appear the injury eventually caught up with Sumerhayes in the final who was unable to match the scores she put down in qualification.
Indeed her best qualifying score of 77.60 would have been enough for fifth place in the final but GB Park and Pipe head coach Pat Sharples was adamant Summerhayes - whose sister Molly competed in today’s halfpipe competition - could hold her head high.
“For Katie to battle through with a really serious injury - she shouldn’t be walking around, let alone skiing the biggest jumps in the world right now - for her to make finals is incredible,” he said.
“She’s a girl from Sheffield. She learnt to ski in Sheffield and is competing in her second Olympic final.
“This is her first slopestyle course she has done since she injured her ankle last year. We didn’t know if she was going to make it back. It was quite a serious injury and it was border line whether she would have an operation.
“She is heartbroken now, she wants a medal. She had a crash in the morning and that’s why she played it very safe in the qualifiers which worked well for her and got her into the finals. She’s been an absolute hero there, she really has.”
Meanwhile, fellow Steel City star James Woods was left far from stoked and ‘totally bummed’ after just missing out on an Olympic medal.
Woods improved his fifth position in Sochi to finish fourth in the freestyle skiing slopestyle final, missing out on a medal by just 1.20 points - his sport’s equivalent of the thickness of an ice skate.
He did his best to accentuate the positive, having played a starring role in the best quality slopestyle final in history.
But you could see a skier who is usually relentlessly upbeat was just crushed.
“Fourth isn’t great, it’s pretty minging,” said Woods. “It’s just devastating being that close to the action, to the bright lights, it’s totally gutting right now.
“I’ve been prepping for this with only winning in mind. I believe, hand on heart, that if I’d put down my run totally clean I’d be standing here talking to you with a gold medal around my neck.
“I’m proud that I stood up under the pressure and I’ve been able to compete with the best guys in the world. I put everything on the line, I didn’t hold back and went for broke.
“I knew I had to go big and maybe I went just a tad too big. I knew that score probably wouldn’t be enough against this field.
“That competition was the next level, the quality was obscene. Everyone was mega, everyone put on a show. I’m proud I was a part of it but, right now, I’m just gutted I’ve only got being proud to show for it.”
Woods was one of eight skiers who scored 90 plus in qualifying but fell heavily on his first final run, covering his chin in a red, white and blue plaster. His second two runs looked spot on, only the aficionado would have noticed the flaws - a slight bob on landing, a wobble on the rails.
Freestyle skiing is a young man’s game, medallists Oystein Braaten, Nick Goepper and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand are all younger than Woods, who’ll be 30 for the next Games in Beijing, a virtual old man in a sport of bright young things.
However, he’s no intention of calling it quits.
“I’m not thinking about the future, I’m thinking I’ve got some mega whiplash coming on from that fall and I need some stitches in my chin,” he adds.
“I’ve got to be disappointed with coming fourth, that’s coming next as well that’s going to hit me harder when I wake up.
“But there’s so much more to this than just the big competitions. Skiing’s got a lot going on for me. I’ll be skiing forever, baby.”
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