GO Big or Go Home.
That will be Billy Morgan’s motto when he begins his Winter Olympics campaign tomorrow, according to one of his snowboarding pals at the Southampton Alpine Centre.
The 24 year-old spent his early teens developing his skills on the artificial slope in Thornhill Road, but tomorrow morning he will become an Olympian when the Slopestyle qualifiers begin at Sochi 2014. Even by the standards of professional snowboarders, the jumps at Sochi are huge.
Billy described them as “massive” following a first day’s practice that saw Norway medal hope Torstein Horgmo crash out of the Games with a broken collarbone.
Criticism of the course continued yesterday, with a reduction in size of all three jumps – by as much as three feet in one instance – not enough for some. US snowboarding legend Shaun White described it as ‘intimidating’ after suffering a wrist injury. But Will Morris, a snowboarding instructor at the Alpine Centre, believes the course will suit Billy now it has been tweaked.
“I spoke to him after his first day’s practice and he said ‘the bigger the jumps the better’ so I think he’ll do all right,” said Will, who lives in Freemantle and has known Billy since their Bellemoor school days. “When we snowboarded together in Quebec his motto would be ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and I’m sure that will be his thinking when the competition begins. “He’s had time to practise on these jumps and the extra air time he gets means there’ll be more scope for him to get style points.
“He won’t have to spin so quickly to get three twists in.”
Billy’s profile has soared since he performed the world’s first Triple Rodeo while practising at the Keystone National Park, Colorado two years ago.
He was second in Slopestyle’s world rankings before suffering a serious knee injury in training in September.
“He’s definitely got a chance of a medal but it’s completely different to what he’s already done,” continued Will. “Last year he was feeling his way onto the competitive scene so this is only his first proper season.
“But he’s got used to the knee brace he’s having to wear and has had some really good results. I can’t wait to see him in action.”
Billy’s journey from the Southampton Alpine Centre to Sochi is some story.
Skateboarding and acrobatic gymnastics helped develop his skills, but he did not try snowboarding till he was 14 and was 17 when he first did so on snow.
“He used to do back flips on the dry slopes in Southampton, which is pretty silly considering the lack of air time and the fact he was landing on plastic!” laughs Will.
“But, because of his gymnastic background he was able to do it. He was self taught, but already had good aerial awareness.
“A friend of ours, Luke Paul, then saw his potential. He suggested we go away for a season so we went to the French Alps and absolutely loved it. Billy took it on to the next level.”
Billy could become Team GB’s first medallist at Sochi, if he qualifies for Saturday’s finals.
Should he do so, the Southampton Alpine Centre will also benefit, having already seen an increase in budding Billy Morgans.
“Since Billy did the Triple Rodeo there’s definitely been an increase in kids wanting to take up snowboarding,” said Will. “Most of our income used to be from donutting, sliding down the slope in rubber rings!
“But the amount of people now wanting to be taught snowboarding is insane! A lot of people want a bit of the action!
“Many who used to go to the local skatepark have started coming along here, through word of mouth more than anything.
“So we’re going to be organising after-school clubs and I’m looking to build some jumps over the summer. Hopefully Billy will be around to assist!”
The Slopestyle qualifiers begin at 6am tomorrow, with the semi-final scheduled for the same time on Saturday.