Brodie Summers: Sunny by nature; nerves of ice-cold steel

If I told you Australia is building a formidable reputation in world mogul skiing, would you believe me?

It’s true! In fact, our potential was hinted as far back as the Sochi Olympics, with Britt Cox finishing 5th, Nicole Parks 15th and Taylah O’Neil 16th in the women’s and Matt Graham 7th and Brodie Summers 13th, in the men’s event.

Then just this weekend, Britt Cox and Matt Graham put in inspirational performances to finish 1st and 2nd respectively in the first world cup event for the season in Ruku, Finland.  It’s clear our mogul performances are no ‘flash in the pan’ nor are they limited to one or two athletes.  Most impressively, all are also home-grown talents.

Enter Perthite and Australian mogul skiier Brodie Summers.  Prior to injuring his back and missing the 2014-15 season, Brodie posted two top 10 performances at the World Championships in Norway, and placed 13th in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, after just missing the final round by .03 of a second – not bad for a Perth-born sand groper.

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Image: Brodie in action in 2016, Deer Valley

When we caught up with Brodie, he was sitting in a Frankfurt airport, where he was waiting to make the final jump across to Ruku, Finland for the 1st world cup event of the 2016-17 season, and to continue his preparation for the 2018 winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea.  We started by asking if he minded us claiming him as a West-Aussie.

Brodie, since you were born in Perth that automatically qualifies you as a Sand groper. Are you OK with this?

Ha ha yes, I still have family there on both my mother’s and father’s side. I try to go back and visit when I can in between university and training commitments. I’ll actually be spending Christmas with my family in Perth this year.

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Image: Brodie the sand groper

We understand you live in Melbourne presently. Do you have a favourite Aussie resort?

Mt Buller will always hold a special place in my heart. It is where I got my start and really developed my passion for mogul skiing. These days I spend most of my Australian on-snow time in Perisher, NSW. There we have Toppa’s Dream, a world-class mogul course where we train for about four weeks each year.

How did you first get involved in Mogul skiing and what age did you first compete?

My first exposure to the sport was when one of my interschool’s teammates at Brighton Grammar was taking part and I got to witness. It didn’t take long after that for me to get the bit between my teeth and want to have a go also. I think I must have been about 12 years old at this stage.

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Image: the crème de la crème of Aussie mogul skiing

How did you enter the mogul scene, was it through the Victorian Institute of Sport, or a talent identification program?

Because the freestyle disciplines of winter sport are quite small in Australia the NSW and Victorian Institutes of Sport have divided their efforts so that VIS handles aerials and NSWIS handles the mogul program. For this reason I have been a NSWIS scholarship holder since 2010 when I first made it onto the National Development Team. There is a national committee that meets yearly to decide who should receive scholarships and they make their decisions based on a number of criteria around training and competition performances in the lead up to selection.

You said that you didn’t have great skiing technique when you were younger, so what made you think that you could make it at moguls?

It’s true; I was quite an average skier when I started with Team Buller Riders in 2006. I’d say this was due to a lack of technical training from an early age as well as pure time on snow. However, I knew that I loved the sport and I developed an obsession with it quite quickly. I remember watching video of my favorite mogul runs for hours on during those first six or seven years. Even to this day, I still find myself doing it; however, not to the same extent.

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Image: Life’s tough on the international circuit

Was Dale Begg-Smith an inspiration to start mogul racing?

Dale Begg-Smith was a huge inspiration for me! When he won Gold in Torino (2006) it was at the same time I was just getting started with the sport that would become such a big part of my life. I remember watching footage of his skiing over and over and often tried to replicate many elements of his technique in my own. His run in Torino is still to this day, one of the best, if not the best moguls run of all time (in my opinion)!

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Image: With his idol and former Olympic champion, Dale Begg-Smith

Most people (me included) try to avoid bumps on the mountain, as it can be hard work; why do you seek out bumps? What do you feel when you are tackling them?

First of all, there’s quite a big difference between the fall line moguls that we compete and train on versus the natural moguls that you find scattered around most resorts. Both are fun if you know what you’re doing but can also be hazardous if you don’t. I suppose that’s the reason I always go looking for moguls… they’re just too much fun to avoid and when you do feel like you’ve nailed a strong section of bumps it is one of the most satisfying feelings imaginable! I would describe the perfect feeling when skiing moguls as though you’re attacking the course but you’re also so on top of everything that it feels effortless and smooth – easier said than done!

Mogul racing is a combination of speed, clean turns, and aerials that are timed and judged. What is the hardest part of mogul racing for you?

As you say, competitive mogul skiing is a combination of many elements and I think it’s that which makes it so difficult. Whilst we train tirelessly to try and perfect our technique the reality is that everything in a mogul course is an obstacle that must be negotiated as cleanly and as seamlessly as possible. Because there are so many chances to go wrong in a mogul course that is what makes it so challenging. The nature of mogul skiing is that it is about reducing/masking errors because you’ll never get a perfect run, even though that is what we are all striving for day-in-day-out.

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Image: Training at the Australian Institute of Sport

What are you thinking when you are actually racing? Is it a technical process or is it too fast for that? Do you have moments where you think, oh crap?

Ha, ‘oh crap’ moments as you put them are fairly commonplace in mogul skiing. I’ve certainly found myself muttering the odd profanity whilst squirming in some awkward position midair just trying to make it to my feet. That is why we train though so those situations don’t arise in competition. When I’m actually competing I will have cue points that I like to tick off in my run but its generally oversimplified and I like to let my instincts takeover and trust that they will get me to where I need to be.

You finished 13th at Sochi which was a great result; were you happy with that or did it just fire you up to work harder?

Sochi was an interesting experience for me. When I realised I wasn’t going to make it to the following round of finals, I also knew I was going to train harder than ever before to ensure I performed better at the next Olympics. I made a few mistakes in my run that night which cost me dearly because I only missed out on the next round by a fraction of a point but that’s the way it goes sometimes and it’s good to hold onto for motivation. I still think about it sometimes during the hard training sessions in the gym or the bad weather days at training. It’s good fuel!

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Image: Training in Australia

The Australian team seems pretty “tight”, particularly yourself, Britt Cox and Matt Graham. Does that help you to support and motivate each other?

Yeah, I feel extremely lucky to have such close teammates. We’re very fortunate to be fiercely independent competitors but also know how to support each other when it counts. We’ve never had any issues living together, which says a lot considering I probably live with them more than my actual family and I think that gives us an advantage over some competitors because we do have that easy living environment with each other.

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What country is the strongest in moguls?

Canada has been a dominant force in mogul skiing for some time now. Alexandre Billodeau with his two Olympic gold medals, Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe with their respective gold and silver medals in Sochi and Mikael Kingsbury with a Silver in Sochi and winning the over Freestyle Crystal Globe for the 5th time in a row last season. They certainly are a powerhouse when it comes to mogul skiing; however, there are signs of emerging nations coming through now. For example, my teammate, Matt Graham beat Kingsbury at the premier world cup of the season in Deer Valley in February and also managed to finish up the season ranked 2nd overall. It will be an interesting showdown between the two athletes this season!

How hard is it for Aussie mogul racers to compete against Northern hemisphere racers in their backyard?

The thing with mogul skiing is that most of us end up training on the same facilities throughout the year because there’s just not that many mogul courses open around the world. I like to think that levels the playing field somewhat; however, there is no denying that many athletes who grew up skiing in the northern hemisphere had an advantage of learning how to handle those often tricky conditions from a young age.

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Image: Along way from home: contemplating life as an international mogul skiier

You are off to Finland to start competing again, how has your preparation been going?

I’m feeling really good at the moment. As I write this, I am sitting in an airport in Frankfurt and I’m itching to get back on snow. The team and I just finished up a successful water ramp camp where we put the finishing touches on our jumps for this season. I’m also feeling really positive about my body and where its stands strength and resilience wise, which is a lot more than I can say about this time last year! I can’t wait to see what the season ahead brings.

What are your immediate goals on the circuit this year?

My goals this season are to have a strong bounce back after my frankly horrible return to competition last year. I want to put down consistent performances to the best of my ability and wherever that puts me will be a good reference going into the following season with the Olympics. As this season begins the official Olympic qualification period, I want to ensure that I have a nice strong build from here forward.

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