Wallace jumps at chance of aerials success in South Korea
Aerial skier Lloyd Wallace in training in Sierra Nevada (Reuters)
Aerials expert Lloyd Wallace spends nine months of the year living out of a suitcase, but that’s a sacrifice the resilient skier is more than willing to make in order to realise his Olympic dream.
“Headphones, a stash of cashew nuts and a good book,” are – aside from skiing gear – the essential items required to hack the globe-trotting lifestyle of a freestyle skier, according to Wallace.
“Cashew nuts are a great comfort food and a good book can get you through long flights, hours of waiting in airports and long nights when you’re jet lagged,” he reveals.
Wallace is set to make his Winter Olympic debut in the aerials event in PyeongChang; an incredible achievement considering he was placed in an induced coma following a crash in training just six months ago.
“I had a year of massive highs and very low lows,” he admits. “But it’s all cumulated in this surreal opportunity to go to the Olympics – something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.”
“I’m also really excited to be a part of Team GB. Although I’ve already represented Great Britain at world cups and world championships, I’ve also been travelling with the Swiss team, so I can’t wait to be out there with the other Brits aiming to do our country proud.
And regardless of his result at the Games, the 23-year-old University of Bath graduate is grateful for the opportunity to compete without the weight of other people’s expectations.
“Just getting there is a huge win for me. No-ones expecting me to do anything amazing and though there are outside chances of my doing well, there’s not really any pressure.
“I think this plays into my hands because I can just go and jump and do the sport that I really love doing. Me and my coach know that if I’m enjoying jumping, the better I jump.
“The experience is obviously a massive part of it and I have thought about my ideal result. Making it into the top 12 would be huge. I know I’ve got the jumps to put me up there with the best in the world, so if I get to the finals, who knows what could happen?”
Wallace will be first male aerialist in 20 years to compete for Team GB at the Winter Olympics, however the TASS alumnus hasn’t had to look far for a sporting role model.
“I’ve been pretty spoilt for choice for Olympians to look up to,” he admits. “Both my parents and my uncle represented Team GB at the Olympics. Before that, my grandfather ran in the 3000m steeplechase at the 1948 London Games.
“I’ve always had these amazing athletes supporting me, but they’re also more than that – they’re mum, dad and uncle Shaun – and I’ve grown up with a number of friends in skiing too.”
But what is it that motivates Wallace return to the sport that last year left him unconscious in a Swiss hospital for five days with a severe head injury?
“It’s that feeling of being completely petrified at the top of the ramp. When you’re standing up there and your heart’s pounding and your legs are shaking, then you go off and do your triple somersault with multiple twists in it.
“Then once you’ve landed and you’re down at the bottom it’s just a feeling like no other – sheer joy, excitement and pride that you just did that jump.”
And it’s his drive to succeed that’s seen the adrenaline-seeking skier excel in his both his sporting career and his education, graduating from University of Bath last summer with a degree in Performance Sport.
“I loved my time at Bath – it was some of the best years of my life for sure,” he recalls. “Getting a degree and graduating from quite a prestigious university was huge for me.
“Especially because before I applied to university I considered trying to pursue skiing full time, but it was definitely the right choice for me to go and uni and get the qualification.”
Wallace was helped by TASS, following two years of SportsAid support, as he juggled his studies with a demanding skiing schedule, receiving recognition of his efforts when he was named as a finalist in the Most Determined category of the 2017 TASS Stars Awards.
“Being out of the country for long periods was always difficult because I was having to catch up with uni work online. When you’ve got to make sure you knuckle down and write essays or revise for exams it’s difficult.
“I was lucky that I had the support that I did from TASS with the lifestyle advisors helping me go through different techniques to get my uni work done when I needed to.
“Also tapping into the strength and conditioning and physio services, alongside sports psychology helped me endlessly. It meant I could progress my sporting career as well as making sure I got my education under my belt.
“Before that, SportsAid helped massively as the funding allowed me travel to extra training camps that I wouldn’t have been able to get to otherwise.”
The Junior World Championship medallist is clearly thriving as he prepares for the biggest event of his life, having flown directly in to South Korea from a training camp in Japan.
“We’re on the north island of Hokkaido and there’s a silly amount of snow – the most snow I’ve ever seen in my whole life! It towers over you on the street, it’s crazy.
“The people are so friendly and the whole town had been prepping for us to come here, which has been ridiculous. Japan is just a very cool place, with very cool traditions and amazing food – the sushi is unbelievable!
“I have a lot of fun and I’m very lucky to do be able to do something that I love and that allows me to travel the world.”
Walllace was supported by TASS for three years until he graduated from university in 2017 and is joined in PyeongChang by 24 other former TASS recipients.