Snowboarding success: the British Junior Champion Jamie Barrow is racing ahead

Snowboarder Jamie Barrow, 17, has been the British Junior Champion at Boardercross for the last two years, but needs sponsorship to keep him at the top.
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The Independent Online

Barrow, who’s studying sports performance at the University of Bath, began snowboarding at the age of eight, having started skiing as a toddler. "I tried snowboarding because I thought it was cooler and because my brother was faster than me on skis and I didn’t like that!" he says. "It means being free on a mountain, in amazing scenery, and being able to do what I love doing. In my eyes, it’s not a sport, it’s a way of life.

"After being selected for the British Junior Snowboard Team and competing in freestyle events with them, I wanted to explore other aspects of the sport, so I tried Boardercross. I found it really exiting and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to stick with it. I got selected for the senior team when I was 15 and became British Junior Champion at 16 and again last year.

"Boardercross is a race where you descend a course in about one to one-and-a-half minutes, with obstacles along the way. You have to do a timed run down the course on your own and if yours is one of the 32 best times, you qualify to the finals.

"It then goes into heats, where four people race down the course at once in a high-speed physical and psychological battle to win. One mistake could result in serious injury. The top two in each heat go through to the next round, until you reach the final, where you’re placed according to how you finish.

"At the moment, I only compete in Boardercross events, but I hope to start competing in the Half-pipe as well. Living in this country, the lack of snow and serious mountains is a problem. The snow domes are great, but as soon as you start Boardercross, they’re just not steep enough or long enough and don’t have enough extreme features.

"I don't receive any funding at the moment, apart from from my parents, who are both teachers, so it’s not easy. Whenever I can, I work at a snowboarding shop to earn the money I need to fulfill my dreams."

Sadly, Barrow couldn’t compete at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games held in Vancouver last month. "Firstly, I had a very bad accident in a French competition," he says. "I slipped a disk in my neck – narrowly avoiding breaking it – and had very bad concussion, for which I had to lie flat for weeks. This meant I wasn’t able to collect enough points to qualify for the Olympic Games. Secondly, most Boardercross riders only have enough bulk and experience to compete at the Olympic Games in their mid-20s.

"Watching the Olympic Games on TV was exiting, although I really wished I was there. It encouraged me to perform better in order to make it to the next Olympic Winter Games."

Barrow has been shortlisted for the current round of Great Britons (for which public voting is taking place now), a programme run by British Airways to celebrate The London 2012 Games. BA, the official airline partner of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, is looking for people who need support to develop their talent in the areas of sport, community, fashion, performing arts, innovation, and art and design. The winners get flights to BA destinations anywhere in the world, and Barrow hopes to win flights to so he can train and compete more abroad. He’s particularly keen to compete at the FIS Snowboard & Freestyle Junior World Championships in New Zealand this August.

"I am absolutely thrilled and exited to be shortlisted for Great Britons – and desperate to win!” he says. “I am hugely proud that my efforts have been noticed.

"Flights are one of my biggest expenses, so winning these flights would really change my life and give me a much better chance of training and competing and therefore a better chance of qualifying for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. My mum was planning to do extra work to help me earn enough money for the trip to New Zealand and it would be a relief if she didn't have to do that.

"Boardercross is one of the most watched winter sports at the Olympic Games and any sponsorship would make a huge difference to me at the moment.”