Video: Norfolk snowboarder claims national Big-Air title at competition in Edinburgh
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
The flatlands of Norfolk may seem an unlikely training ground for winter sports competitors but that has not prevented 19-year-old Mary Leishman from winning a national snowboarding title.
The first-year student at the University of East Anglia, from Wymondham but now living in Norwich as a student, has become the highest ranked female university competitor for Big-Air Snowboarding in the UK.
The Business Management student captained the UEA Union's Snowsports Club, at the BUDS Dryslope Championships in Edinburgh, which is the world's biggest dryslope event and sees over 1,000 skiers and snowboarders competing.
Leishman, who has honed her skills at the Norfolk Snowsports Club's dryslope at Trowse, was competing in the Big-Air category which sees boarders attempt to land the most stylish and technical aerial manoeuvre off a large jump.
After making it to the final, competitors then have two runs, with the best one counting, to impress the judges. But it was not all plain sailing for Leishman.
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As captain of the UEA team, she accompanied a team-mate to a local hospital after he had suffered a bad cut to his knee and ended up being a late entry for her competition.
Despite the drama she still made it through to the final, where she and six other finalists battled it out for first place.
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'It was a challenging two runs as I had little practice and the change in weather conditions had caused the slope to run much faster than I expected, but I didn't mind as I was just so excited to be in the finals,' Leishman said.
'Big-Air is where you come off a large jump and perform aerial manoeuvres. I won the ladies Big Air category, which I was quite happy with. 'With Big Air if you don't land the tricks they don't count and there was another girl there throwing front-flips, which was a bit beyond me and I expected her to win but it turns out she didn't land any of them so my (Backside) 360 was the best trick, which I was pretty happy with.'
Since learning to snowboard at Norfolk Snowsports Club five years ago, Leishman has regularly trained at Trowse and also instructed others.
'It's a good place to learn, I absolutely love it,' she continued. 'I kept coming down and practicing, kept pushing myself. There's lots of awesome riders here and it's a really great vibe.
'So I just kept riding and pushing myself. I ride with a lot of guys because there are not many girls who do snowboarding but I think that really pushes my ability to be honest.
'You can build it up a little and try smaller jumps and slowly build up to bigger jumps but once you get out on real snow you can't just ride over it slowly, that's just not an option, so you really just have to get over the jump. It's usually a case of just watching someone else and going 'all-right, I can do that'.
'Snowboarding is such an exhilarating sport, it's a very social sport too which is why I love it so much. Norfolk Snowsports Club is a great place to learn as well as its run by volunteers, which makes it really friendly but also really affordable.'
Leishman is keen to promote her sport to others in the area and is involved with organising the club's annual festival, Farmers Jam, a camping weekend of music, parties, skiing and snowboarding which will be held next September.
She added; 'I'm very excited with my victory up in Scotland earlier and I must thank our great local shop, Snowfit Revolutionz, for all their support they have given me over the years.
'I'm really excited about the chance to push freestyle in our local area. The sport doesn't get much publicity, but Norfolk is a great area to ride, our dryslope is one of the best in the country; and with riders like Olympic potential Kyle Wise from the area, it's a fantastic place to learn. If you live locally there's no reason not to give it a try.'