Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: That’s our Jenny Jones - the first British snow angel

Podium finish in snowboard slopestyle event comes on second day of the Games

Sochi

On Saturday evening Jenny Jones received a text from her mother. “I love you,” it said and signed off with three kisses. She watched an episode of Downton Abbey and then went to bed. A big day lay ahead. It turned out to be the biggest of her life.

On Sunday morning she tucked her multi-coloured snowboard under her arm and set off on the 10-minute walk to the slopes from the athlete’s mountain village and into the history books. By early afternoon Jones had claimed Britain’s first medal of the Sochi Olympics, a bronze in the slopestyle, but her achievement went far beyond that.

In 90 years of trying, no Briton had won an Olympic medal on snow. The previous 22 winter medals all came on ice – provided by skaters, bobsleighers, curlers, skeleton athletes and ice hockey players. Last night in the Medal Plaza in the main Olympic Park, some 50 miles from the mountains where it had been won, a snow medal was hung around Jones’s neck.

She betters the fourth place achieved by Gina Hathorn in the slalom in Grenoble in 1968. Hathorn was 0.03sec short of bronze; Jones won bronze by a quarter of a mark. These are tiny sporting margins.

Her moment came when the pre-event favourite, Anna Gasser, slipped while completing the final run. Jones was promptly enveloped by a fit of the giggles, her reaction to the abrupt freeing of tension of the final, the day – which had begun with her squeezing through the semi-finals – and even the four days since she struggled in qualifying.

 

Eight of the dozen final places had been filled on Thursday, with the remaining four sorted out in what was effectively a repechage Sunday morning between 12 boarders. Jones took the penultimate place while her British team-mate Aimee Fuller crashed out.  

As the 11th-ranked of the final 12, Jones was the second rider to go. Her first run scored 73 and put her in fifth position at the halfway. Her second was better, much better, and after an anxious three-minute delay while the judges made their minds up, earned 87.25. That was good enough to take her into gold medal position. Now all she could do was wait.

For 15 minutes she remained in gold, then Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi scored 92.5. Time stretched out. Two riders fell. Out came Jamie Anderson, Jones’s friend and sometime host when she stays in the US. To whoops from her American team-mates, Anderson bounced over the jumps and slid easily over the rails and was awarded 95.25.

There were two more to come – the running order sees the best qualifiers go last – and the medal was slipping from her grasp, but both Isabel Derungs and Gasser were to make crucial slips. 

“All that waiting!” said Jones. “I was only the second person to drop and there were so many more girls to come. I absolutely knew I would drop down but it was just a question of how far I would drop down. As I was watching I was thinking, ‘Oh gosh, she fell, oh no, but it means I’m still here’. When the last girl went and I realised she had messed the rail a bit, it was just like, ‘Oh my goodness. I am on the podium’.”

When she stepped onto that podium on Sunday night, watched by her mother, a midwife, and father, a retired fireman, it was the final step in a long and at times painful and gruelling journey. It began on a dry slope in Somerset but it was not until she was 18 that Jones first boarded on snow. Before heading to university she told her parents she was taking a year off and left to work as a chalet maid in France.

Her mother, Helen, told the story. “We tried to get in contact with her at the chalet and we couldn’t contact her – she’d left. Eventually Pete got hold of her on the phone and asked her where she was and she said, ‘Listen, I’ve chucked the job in, entered a snowboarding competition and I’ve just won the British junior championships’. That’s the first we knew! That’s Jen.”

The early years were tough. A series of part-time jobs – working in a cardboard factory, flipping burgers in Vancouver, hotel work – kept her afloat off the slopes as she improved on it. In 2009 she won the first of two Winter X Games titles but while other snowboard disciplines were admitted to the Olympics, slopestyle remained on the outside.

“It was only two years ago that it was announced it was going to be in the Olympics and I was like, ‘Gosh can I hang on that long?’,” said Jones, now 33.

It is four years since her last X Games triumph. A medal in the World Cup last year demonstrated she could still have her moments. She was, though, no longer one of the big guns as a new, younger generation led by Anderson and her compatriot Karly Shorr emerged. Within the sport there were plenty who thought her best days were gone; slopestyle’s debut was a Games too late for Jones.

In December she was concussed after crashing on a training run in Austria. Come Christmas she was still groggy. Her parents, and for a time Jones herself, believed the Games were gone. It was not until New Year’s Eve that her neurologist gave her the all clear and the very next day she was on a flight to the States to Britain’s pre-Games training camp.

As they soaked in their daughter’s achievement on Sunday afternoon, her parents spoke of the single-mindedness that has always marked out their youngest child. After she struggled in qualifying they had tried to console her with the fact that at least she was an Olympian. Jones was having none of it.

“We know what Jen is like,” said Pete Jones. “She likes the podium.” Last night he saw his daughter step onto the Olympic one and into British Olympic history.

“It’s ridiculous,” said an ecstatic Jones. “That’s me. Me from Bristol!”

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape