• Lorna

Never too old for a hero.

The first snow flakes have been falling in the Alps, and there have also been huge chunky snowflakes falling in Wanaka, NZ as they head into spring. Both places I have been so lucky to live in and call home for a while. Having spent ten years following the snow between the northern and Southern Hemispheres, this is about the time where my mind still feels like it's time to move to the mountains. Although I don't have any concrete plans to do that right now, my feet are itching for ski boots... no, that's a lie. My feet hate ski boots. My mind is dreaming of snow.

I grew up in Northamptonshire, which I loved. It's beautifully flat with huge skies, but no mountains and rarely any snow. But on the TV, was the most wonderful program called Ski Sunday. The theme tune alone was worth tuning in for, but the excitement of the skiing kept me glued to the TV.

Not only that, but the BBC would show The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe right before Ski Sunday. Snow and snow and snow! It was a truly life changing combo for me. I was instantly obsessed with the snow.

The same year, we had a family holiday to Aviemore and I saw actual skis, and an actual dry slope and I went on an real chairlift. It didn't matter that it was summer, I thought this was the best thing ever. I was hooked.

And so, on my return to school that year, I was asked to create a little book about me, you know, where you draw your family tree, and your house and all of those things. And in mine, I said that skiing was one of my favourite hobbies!! Ha! I didn't know anyone who skied regularly, I had never been and it was purely on the back of watching Ski Sunday, a ride on a chairlift and seeing some skis up in Aviemore.

I am fascinated by the fact that I knew how much I would love this, and when I got to have a go aged 13, it was truly EVERYTHING I wanted it to be. It didn't matter that I crashed through three fences and snapped my skis on day one, this was my favourite thing ever. To this day (loved ones aside) it is the thing I have loved the most in my life.

I went on to do ten years of back to back winters between the USA/Europe and summers in NZ. I pinch myself when I realise what I got to do and have so many happy memories. It has certainly come with its fair share of trials, crashes, a broken leg, multiple knee surgeries and plenty of gritty days training or teaching in adverse conditions. But I learnt to enjoy adversity, to seek it out...train hard fight easy.

(Photo credits: Grand Gunderson & Ed Bloomfield)

By the time the Eddie the Eagle movie came out in 2016, I knew I had to see it. I didn't remember much about him, being little when he was doing his thing. I absolutely loved the movie and watched it with both pure joy and tears streaming down my face. I had been working towards the British level 4 qualification, which meant a race test. I'd never been round a set of gates until I was 31 (after a broken leg and 3 knee surgeries only 2 years before). I had set myself up for a challenge thats for sure. But it was in my heart and I had to give it a go. I watched Eddie's emotional journey play out on screen and it felt so close to home. Although I wasn't going to for the olympics, I knew how it felt to push for something and to come away a split second off the mark, along with the worries and emotional energy it takes to pick yourself up and go again.

I wrote to Eddie the day after I watched the movie. I wondered if I was a little too old to send fan mail, but I thought I'd do it anyway, and who wouldn't want to know that they had inspired someone somewhere. So I bought him a card and googled his address, hoping it would find him. I don't know if it ever did, but I hope so. I decided you're never to old to find a hero, and I thanked him for keeping me going while I was chasing my dream.

I listened to the soundtrack while I kept training. It's full of amazing classics like 'You make my dreams come true' by Hall and Oates, but the music composed by Mathew Margeson for the movie is also ace. I found it really motivating while I was getting my head in gear to feel connected to such an inspiring story.

I chose to walk away from that dream before I quite got there. I believe I could have made it, but it started to become at the expense of a lot of important things, possibly my mental health too, and in the end, for what? It is sometimes harder to walk away than it is to keep going, for me it is anyway. But when you're googling 'Sunk Cost Fallacy' it's probably time to stop. There are so many variables in winter sports, there is so much uncertainty and the dice can roll your way, or not, in an instant. I love this about it, it keeps you on your toes and teaches you so many amazing lessons, but it is tricky.

I drew this the day before my last ski exam. We had an unprecedented amount of snow which meant the resort kept shutting and the first 2 days of my 5 day exam were cancelled and the next ones were going to be tough. I sat feeling stressed about things far beyond my control, having not been able to train properly for a couple of weeks before either due to the storms. Sometimes the universe gives you what you want. Other times it gives you what you need. That January was truly a case of riding out a giant slap in the face pushing me to start a new chapter. But I decided to face it head on and ride out into the storm with my head held high.

The moments in the film where Eddie thinks it's over for him, are the ones that I find the hardest to watch. But I am genuinely happy that I got as far as I did, and it was time for a new chapter which has led me to here, and to you. Quite the magical place. Not only that, but it's a place where I am learning to do things for fun, free of the need for the validation of badges. I literally had a badge collection, so this is a hard thing for me to learn, but I think it will be a worthwhile one. And I will ALWAYS. LOVE. The snow. x

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Copyright Lorna Gibson 2021

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© 2019 by Lorna Gibson