PokerStars sponsored Olympic snowboarding star Zoe Gillings-Brier describing her spellbinding journey to the Olympics, the pros and cons of living on the Isle of Man and what she would train a magpie to do.
I caught up with the five-time Isle of Man Sports Woman of the year to find out what makes her tick.Who is Zoe-Gillings Brier?
I am a contradiction at times. I am very determined, focused and at times highly competitive and yet at the same time chilled out and very easy going. I get along with almost everyone but put me in a race against him or her, and I’ll do everything in my power to win, always within the rules, though.
What were the important milestones on your journey to becoming an Olympic snowboarder from the first time you hit the snow up until today.
1995 – I started snowboarding at age ten on family holidays.
1995 – I did my first competition two months later, it was the British Championships where I won the under 16 girls category.
1998 – When I was about 13 I remember telling my friend I wanted to be a professional snowboarder, she thought I was nuts, and it wasn’t possible but that just made me want to prove her wrong.
2000 – When I was 15 I competed in my first major international competition that was the European Youth Olympics where I finished 6th. I decided this was the career for me.
2001 – At 16 I went to Canada for six months to do my first full winter season training. I’ve been on snow all winter every winter since (except when injured).
2004 – At 19 I was the first snowboarder in the world to qualify for the Turin Olympics.
2005 – I shattered my left foot during a photo shoot and was told I wouldn’t be able to snowboard again.
2006 – I didn’t listen and got back on snow eight months later in time for the Turin Olympics where I finished 15th.
2006 to 2010 – I learned to walk properly post foot surgery (I’d got back on a board before I was able to walk properly)
2010 – Vancouver Olympics finished 8th
2011 – World Championships finished 7th
2011 – Set up Isle of Deals Ltd in the Isle of Man to fund training and competing after losing UK government funding.
2014 – Sochi Olympics finished 9th after a nail-biting photo finish in the semi-final. Unfortunately, the photo showed me 30cm behind the other girl on the finish line meaning I missed out on the final.
2014 – Set up Pound Shave Club as my second business venture. It’s currently going very well, attracting interest from investors in London and steadily growing.
2015 – Finished 3rd in the European Cup.
Now – I am training out in Austria with the rest of the British snowboard cross team. The team has grown this year to 14 full-time members, and I’m loving having more teammates than every before. Training is going well, and competitions start in one month.
Can you talk a little bit about what you eat, drink and why?
I have to be careful about what I eat and drink. I eat plenty of carbohydrates, mostly low GI, before and after training. Good quality protein and lots and lots of vegetables. I’ll cook for myself instead of eating out whenever possible. I drink a lot of water, some fruit juice and obviously avoid alcohol.
The same with your exercise regimen.
I build my fitness in the summer with lots of gym training and outdoor sports and then maintain it through the winter by training in the gym when I’m not training on the mountain.
What other work do you regarding continuous personal improvement and why?
I love learning new things. Be it a new snowboarding technique, a word in a foreign language or how to make a movie on your computer. I want to keep learning all my life, and I hope that I always love doing it.
How do you work the mind?
Running Pound Shave Club Ltd keeps my mind busy while my body is resting.
What are plus and minus points living in the Isle of Man?
The plus points are it’s pretty, peaceful, safe, has low crime, people tend to trust each other more than on the mainland, and there’s a great sense of community. The only real downside is it’s expensive to get on and off, and it takes planning, you can’t just jump in the car and decide to drive to Liverpool to do some shopping – you have to book a ticket on the boat. Saying that if there were a big bridge to drive across then most of the plus points probably wouldn’t be true anymore.
When you look at the world what do you see?
Lots of mountains.
What is most important to you and why?
I rely on my family quite a lot for advice and support.
If you could train a Magpie to do one thing for you what would it be and why?
To find my car keys when I lose them.
What’s your thoughts and feeling around money?
If I have enough to live, train, compete and go on a holiday now and then I’m happy.
When I say the word ‘success’ who immediately springs to mind and why?
Richard Branson. Legend.
What are the smartest pieces of advice you have ever received?
Find something you love to do and get someone to pay you to do it.
Make the most of every day, you only live once so don’t waste it.
What’s the best advice you didn’t heed and why?
I was told to do more freestyle snowboard training (doing spins and tricks off jumps) when I was younger, and I didn’t because all I wanted to do was go fast. Now the snowboard cross courses have changed with bigger jumps and different features so now I need the freestyle skills to ride them properly. So I spent most of last winter working on freestyle skills.
What are the sorts of things that fly around your head when you day dream?
If I’m just thinking about random stuff, I might be replaying scenes from movies in my head. If I’m imagining myself somewhere, I’ll imagine I’m lying in the middle of a grassy field under the sun, with butterflies flying around.
Do you keep a journal? If, so what are the kinds of things you write about?
I used to write in my journal a lot but don’t much anymore. If I do, I write about what has happened in my day and what was going on in my life. If I’m ever annoyed about anything I find it helpful to write about it, it calms me down and helps me put things in perspective.
What are your current challenges?
Thinking up answers to these questions!
If you had 10,000 hours to work on anything what would it be?
Being a better snowboard cross racer.
Give my teenage son some advice.
Be kind to your parents, they put up with a lot.