Australian athlete eighteen year old Jarryd Hughes is a quiet achiever.
A dedicated snowboarder, Sydney based Hughes lacks the big Olympic Winter Institute scholarship money of his fellow boarder cross competitor, world champion and Winter Olympic gold medal hopeful, Alex Chumpy Pullin. But he hasn’t let a few less funding dollars stop him from achieving his dreams and securing the spotlight when it matters most, just before the Sochi Olympics.
The NSW Institute of sport athlete won his first World Cup gold medal in December at Lake Louise this season and is going into the Winter Olympics as world number two with the public support of golden girl Torah Bright. All this less than twelve months after ACL surgery.
Snow It All spoke with Jarryd on the eve of his first Aspen X Games.
What were your expectations going into this FIS season?
My first goal for this season was just get back and compete after I tore my ACL at the Sochi Test event in February last year. I had to have surgery so I knew that it was gonna be a tough grind for 6 -8months. What I did know from my five World Cups was that I could compete at World Cup level and although the results did not come last season I knew I was close to being competitive with the big dogs on the tour – Baumgartner, Wescott, Holland, Pullin and Schairer.
The plan that we have been working on with my Coach Jon Casson and my Dad (Darren Hughes) was to peak in time for Sochi and come in under the radar as a bolter for a medal. To do that I needed to be making finals consistently and I needed a podium.
I have made semi finals in all of my races this season, made one BIG Final and have won a World Cup, I am the second youngest person to win a World Cup in Boardercross and the youngest person to wear the Yellow Jersey as World Cup Tour Leader and I go into the Olympics as World Number Two and feel confident that I can perform to that level.
What does this mean for you going into Sochi?
It is huge on a number of levels, firstly 3 years ago when my dad sat down with me and asked what did I want to do with this sport – I told him I want to go to Sochi. He told me OK let’s do it. He put together a plan and sat down with me and my coach with a plan to make Sochi – no-one believed it was possible, everyone thought it laughable that a 15 year old kid could crack it in Boardercross in three years and make the 2014 Australian Olympic Team – they were wrong!
Secondly I see it as an honour to be chosen by the Australian Olympic Committee to compete for Australia which I respect greatly and understand the privilege that it is, and, thirdly, in an individual sport the Australian Olympic Committee provides a framework where there really is an Australian Team, where we all wear the same uniform, all have the same level of support and the same opportunity to do your best – awesome!
So what’s next?
I line up for X-Games on Friday for the first time, my approach is that I am a racer, there is a race in Aspen and this is the best way to prepare for Sochi – I want to go in hot to Sochi with lots of racing and strong results behind me. This give me confidence and also shows people the commitment I have to the sport.
Following X Games I will stay in Aspen to train for another week and then head straight to Sochi for the Opening Ceremony. I am also focused past the Olympics with at least one World Cup left and Junior World Championships in early April – I have some unfinished business as two years ago I got Silver at Junior Worlds.
Who did you celebrate your winning podium with and where?
My first World Cup Podium was winning the World Cup in Lake Louise in December – I have my support network around me at all my World Cups and major events which includes my Dad who co-ordinates all the details of my program, my coaches and training partners from Team Utah SBX Jon Casson and Cody Brown, Mick Dierdorff, Jenna Feldman my wax tech Jeff Sadis and of course Torah and Ben Bright who have been awesome support for me this last year as Torah has attacked Boardercross.
My most cherished memory from that day is Seth Wescott waiting in the finish area to congratulate me – he was the first person to congratulate me and is such great ambassador for our sport. My Dad got my mum on the phone in the finish area and to tell her I had just won meant so much that as a family we could share the win!
What is your ritual on game day?
I like to get up early and do a spin session the morning of a race to get warmed up to compete, other than that I just focus on having fun and not getting caught up in the stress of competing.
You use the hashtag #teamoutcast which Torah Bright also uses – who is in #teamoutcast and how do you become part of that team?
If you’re in #Teamoutcast you know who you are, you need to know the secret handshake and the moves to a pretty crazy dance which was unleashed at the Andorra World Cup. As athletes you need to have a bit of fun and also strong support from like minded people who inspire you, believe in you and trust in you oh and the General is the only one who can make you part of the team!
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to Sochi?
Torah Bright winning Gold and seeing Scotty James being selected for Vancouver. I knew Scotty as we competed against each other at lots of events as kids, he was a year older so he showed me that it could be done and Torah showed me that if you dream big enough anything is possible and that you can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I know everyone at the moment is focused on Sochi with the able bodied event, however there is also the Sochi Paralympics in March and I want to give a big shoutout to the Australian Para Snowboardcross Team of Joany Badenhorst, Ben Tudhope and Matty Robinson who I have been fortunate to work with – these guys are awesome and keep a special eye out for 14 year old Ben Tudhope who is going to impress everybody!
You don’t know what tough is until tough is the only option and these guys have taught me a lot – you want inspiration – just spend a day with them on the mountain.
Follow Jarryd’s Olympic journey on social media.