However I've been lucky that my performances were good enough to qualify me for the 2019 world cup series. I'm super stoked to be racing at Bratislava, Tacen and Leipzig world cups. Being part of the international slalom scene is a privilege, and my soul is filled by training and relaxing with people who love the same things as me. (A brief interlude; if you'd like to support me on my journey through this season, I've set up a crowdfunding page:
When I think about what sport means to me, I usually come to think it's an endeavour that has saved my life in a lot of ways. Having a pathway to pour your heart and soul into is an incredible position to be in. It can also be isolated, and forces you to question yourself, sometimes every day. But ultimately I feel as though I have a platform to speak from, a group of friends and a way of life that makes me feel safe in speaking my mind. Not that my opinions are particularly valuable; it just feels safe to express them, because you are often asked to.
Over the last few months, I have felt like there is a shift in the awareness and priorities of society. We've all realised that our planet is dying. Sport has to embrace a new role; a platform to inspire in a way it hasn't focused on before. People like Etienne Stott (who I'll be interviewing in a couple of days!) have had the courage to stand up and talk about what is happening to our planet. How our current lives have to change. The uncomfortable reality of this is that athletes do leave a significant carbon footprint. The public voices we have to talk about these issues does not offset the price the planet pays.
So a pretty easy set of changes I've made:
Eating plant based. I don't like saying 'vegan' because unfortunately, there are a set of feelings attached to the label which influence the way people listen to you after that. I always said 'I'll be vegan after I'm done being an athlete.' The reality is, athletes make exceptions for all kinds of food and drinks, because they want them. I'm making a permanent exception to the way I used to eat, because I want to. It's not hard to eat plant based, it's just a change of habit - I eat exactly the same proportion of protein, carbohydrate and fat as I always have done.
Educating myself about recycling, plastic packaging and the cost of import. 25% of all waste that gets put in recycling actually gets dumped in landfills, because people can't be bothered rinsing out their tin cans or washing the food waste out of the boxes. It takes a fraction of your time. Slow down, give a shit, and make a difference. Plastic packaging is a harder one to begin solving. The UK has so much plastic waste that we're forced to shove a load of it overseas, to deal with. Our consumerist lifestyles are not sustainable. Which brings me to the harder things to stomach:
Travel requires fuel. I don't just mean the fuel we use in our cars, or the fuel airplanes guzzle. I mean the millions of gallons of fuel it takes to ship bananas from South America to the UK. The deep, brutal scars that our changing demands leave on the world. Avocados are popular. Chia seeds are popular. Tofu, rice, wheat, dairy, meat, oranges are all things consumed by the billions of tons, and we add to the damage caused by farms by insisting on shipping them to ourselves. Every day. It's great being aware of all this stuff. Figuring out how to do something about it is hard; not least because the reality is, we're gonna have to give up some really nice stuff that we've gotten used to.
I'm excited to learn more about the impact my role can have in the world. I'm getting used to the easy changes I've been able to make. I'm learning more about the ways I need to keep changing. Some of them seem unbearable right now, but with education and understanding anything is possible. I love my sport; slalom is part of me. I want to ride the wave of support I get through that, and help show people that it doesn't have to be scary, and they aren't alone. We all live here!