Emily Sarsfield: Sochi 2014 result would help future ski-crossers

Britain's number one ski-crosser Emily Sarsfield hopes qualifying for Sochi 2014, and performing well there, would provide a legacy for future athletes.

The 30-year-old from Durham missed the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver after tearing knee ligaments and fracturing a femur and tibia in a crash.

What is Olympic ski cross?

  • First appeared at Vancouver 2010
  • Race downhill for around one kilometre, negotiating obstacles and jumps and often making contact with each other
  • There is a time trial round and the fastest 32 athletes then compete in eight races of four competitors
  • Top two in each race advance to next round until competition reaches a final medal race.

"I'm completely self-funded and have no coach," she told BBC Look North.

"That's the nature of being a Briton in a winter sport. It's my role to perform so there's funding for future skiers."

Despite being the top-ranked Briton for eight years, Sarsfield is not a lottery funded full-time athlete. She does, however, receive financial aid from the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).  

Now, she must secure a place in the world's top 32 to qualify for next year's Games in Russia. The ranking period begins in December and ends on 19 January 2014, encompassing seven competitions.

"If Sochi was tomorrow, I'd have qualified because last season I ticked all the boxes on Team GB's criteria," she said.

"Being in the top 32 just gets me invited. I then have to prove I could be in the top half of the field to make our team."

Too dangerous?

Ski cross has been criticised for the level of risk skiers must take. Injuries like Emily Sarsfield's in 2009 are a common occurrence and last year, Canadian Nik Zoricic died whilst racing at a World Cup event in Switzerland

Sarsfield suffered what her surgeon told her was a career-ending injury in 2009, and as a consequence, Team GB selected Australian-born Sarah Sauvey  for the ski-cross event.

She had the advantage of almost year-round skiing at Mount Hotham in her native Australia, but came 34th in the time trial in Vancouver and did not make it through to the medal round.

"Unfortunately there aren't many mountains around here," Sarsfield added.

"I've worked up to three jobs in the summer, then whilst training abroad in the winter I've given ski lessons.

"I just have to scrape a few pennies together to train. But that determination just makes me want it a bit more, I think.

"Still, being the first to come through in British ski cross I've really got to set those boundaries and try and win a medal in Sochi so future athletes might have the chance to train full-time."