Have you ever wondered what it would take to get to the Winter Olympics in snowboarding? Nurture or nature? Nic Eatch for SR-News met with Gabe Adams, just 18, from rural Shropshire, to find out how he became ‘Big’ in the world of snowboarding. Plus a unique parents perspective of the sacrifices necessary to get to the Olympics.
I first caught up with Gabe Adams while he was competing at the World Championships in Aspen, USA, back in March 2021 via Zoom. Extremely good looking, long curly dark hair, gold jewelry, drop-earing’s, bobble hat, and a huge winning smile- he is the epitome of ‘urban-cool’.
Big-Air for anyone not conversant with the finer details of snowboarding involves flying down a 40-degree, 49m ramp, reaching heights that dwarf that of a typical house. Then, whilst catapulted into mid air, performing a series of dazzling acrobatics, before hopefully – but not always – making a solid landing. How do you even get started in this sport, crossed my mind?
“I started snowboarding on a family holiday in France when I was seven years old in 2010”, said Gabe.
“I began skiing but broke two bones in my wrists …so I said to my Dad that I was going to start snowboarding because skiers break their arms”, he smiles.
He has broken a fair few bones since then but laughs them off: “I have broken like knuckles…pulled muscles and small fractures and stuff like that.”
LIFE IN THE AIR
I ask Gabe when he first got ‘airborne’.
“Hahaha… my first day on a snowboard…I wasn’t with with my family and I found myself in the snow park…I just saw jumps and found myself in the air.”
Ten years on, Gabe has spent a long time in the air; clearly he loves the feeling.
“When you have done it for so long, you feel a lot more natural when you’re up there….you feel in control.
“You know where you are. We do a lot of spatial awareness training, to find out where we are in the air, no matter what position we get ourselves into, we could always get out of it”, he confidently adds.
The next thing he said really gave a great incite into the mind and soul of a budding ‘Big Air’ Olympian.
“Being up there is a lot more fun than being down here.”
I am struck by his enthusiasm; his passion for snowboarding radiates as does his complete confidence – but no air of arrogance – in his ability and technique.
Credit Tamara Susa – Aspen Snowboard World Championships 2021 – Gabe Adams ‘Spatial Awareness’
Joe Adams, 45 and Lizzie Adams, 51, from Bridgnorth, are Gabe’s devoted parents and have supported their son’s ambitions from day one.
Lizzie, by her own admission, ‘the nervous parent’, explains: “A family friend whilst in France offered to take Gabe snowboarding. I said to him that the minute he thinks he knows what he’s doing, he will be off. So you have got to really keep an eye on him. So ten minutes later, Neil [family friend] comes over to me and said: “Right, I have lost Gabriel!”
“And so we were looking all over for a green helmet and then saw this green helmet going flying through the air and realised he was on the adult park.
“We stood at the bottom of the park, and then all these lads were whooping and clapping and asking us how long had he been snowboarding. We said about twenty-minutes!”
“He sneaked off and got the chairlift over and he said to a guy he had been snowboarding ages” adds Joe, Gabe’s hard working father.
Within two weeks of stepping onto a board Gabe Adams won his first snowboarding competition.
ADRENALINE JUNKIE – NATURE VERSUS NURTURE
To be an Olympian in the sport of Big Air requires:- a dedication to training, positive-mental-attitude and a great support network. The fourth requirement it dawns on myself – and maybe the most important one – is natural ability; buoyed by the internal craving for adrenaline.
Gabe’s father retells a story of young Gabe, aged four, that would probably chill-the-bones of most parents.
“We looked out the kitchen window, Gabe had got his younger brother who was about 18-months-old, lying down, so he could jump over him on a quad bike, getting him to move further and further back.”
It is obvious that Gabe was born with less fear than most of us.
FUNDING AND SPONSORSHIP ISSUES
Gabe’s father, travels all around the globe supporting his son. £9,000 a year is provided in financial support by the British federation to enable his Olympic aspirations. However Joe and Lizzie point out that this does not cover flights, accommodation, living expenses etc. This makes it a full-time job for Joe and Lizzie to find sponsors to cover the short-fall. Unlike traditional Olympic sports like rowing and cycling, where Team GB has unprecedented success and so receives huge funding, the winter disciplines trail-in-their-wake.
“The whole of Team GB snow sports get £12-13million combined… so bobsleigh, skiing, skating, snow boarding etc. Rowing alone gets £48m, cycling gets £49m. So it’s really tough…..compare that to the Icelandic Federation. The minute you get into the top 100 in the world[in Iceland]….each athlete receives 100,000 euros of funding”, states Joe. He is clearly frustrated by this.
There is another problem that Team GB athletes face when it comes to sponsorship according to Joe. Team GB only allow the official kit sponsor to be advertised Joe explains.
“Every other nation allows it[other sponsors advertising] apart from Team GB….so that’s one of the challenges, obviously your sponsors want publicity off-the-back of the Olympics” he adds.
You may think snow boarders are not as fit as other Olympians. Think again. Gabe has just run an incredibly quick mile for a non-runner.
“I have just run a mile in 4 minutes thirty…I was jumping up and down”, exclaims Gabe.
He also spends long hours each day on a fitness regime and has a strict diet plan.
“We do how many ‘burpies’ we can do in six minutes…the longest hand-stand in one go….and the longest plank…I did thirty-two minutes in August 2020”, explains Gabe.
This is in addition to trampolining and other extensive work in the gym, before clocking up countless hours on the mountains. On top of this he fits in his school work, which according to Lizzie he attacks with the same focus as his sport.
“He has got that tunnel vision…in his school work….when he sets his mind to something he’s going to get it done”, proudly states Lizzie.
ONE FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE
I end by asking Gabe what advice would he give to any young kid wanting to take up snow boarding.
“Embrace falling, because you learn more from falling than you do anything else. Never be scared to fall.”
Eliminating fear-of-failure – a great learning point for most of us.
I wish him luck.
Credit Nic Eatch 45 second original video edit of Nic Eatch Gabe Adams interview from snowboard world championships, Aspen, USA.