Emily Sarsfield; Méribel’s Resident Olympian
16th January 2019 | Meribel
Emily Sarsfield is a very understated local hero; she spends hours, days, weeks and years working day in, day out to fulfil her dream of being a professional skier. And whilst she’s certainly more than fulfilled that role, we caught up with her to find out what life was like after the high of last year’s olympics.
Emily began skiing on family holidays when she was 3; idolising her sister (who was a fierce competitor in her own right) and wanting to do everything she did. Whilst some sibling rivalries can be bitter, the Sarsfield sisters are far from that; their life in competition was one spent together and supporting each other; something we could all certainly learn from.
Emily’s ski career started in Alpine Slalom on the dry slopes and she tried ski cross for the first time at the World University Games in 2005. “My first impression was that these athletes were crazy, racing so close together with huge jumps. When my coach suggested I give it a go I asked if he was joking! But after the first run I was hooked and it brought a whole new love of skiing for me and I haven’t looked back.”
Last year, after 22 years in the ski industry, Emily hit peak and made it to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. She has had anything but an easy ride to get there. Despite being the eight-time British Ski Cross champion and first ever British female to win a Europa skiing event, the road was not paved out for her; it took considerable graft and a lot of pain.
If you’ve yet to experience ski-cross; try to picture 4 skiers heading down a track with lumps and bumps and tight turns…as you can imagine, it’s a pretty brutal sport, and not one you’ll catch us trying any time soon.
But last year was not the first time that Emily’s Olympic dream was in sight. In 2010, she became the first British Skier to ever win a ski cross event, just 10 months after she’d crashed and broke her femur, tibia and snapped all of the ligaments in her knee during the Vancouver Games. The following Olympics in 2014, she also got within arms reach before an error in the results and a complication in funding shattered her dreams. This is a woman who does not give up and fought with everything she had to get to the top. Finally, last year, she made British history again by making the quarter finals and placing 16th in the Pyeongchang Olympics.
How has life been post-olympics? Have you managed to take time to recover, or are you back in the swing of training?
“Post Olympics was a tough one, eventually achieving that dream was amazing and I was immensely proud that all the hard work and dedication paid off and I finally became an Olympian after a pretty rough road!
The feeling after the Olympics was pretty surreal…I had achieved that dream I had been working towards for so long and to be honest with you I felt a little lost! I didn’t really have my next step planned, and I was caught off guard with the post games lull. It took me a while to wonder who I was and where I was going next but sport is life and I never left my training routine as that was part of me, I did treat myself to a few sugary treats though! Haha!
I didn’t get much downtime as this year is the World Championships so I turned my focus to that along with building my ski school ‘EmSkiSchool’, ‘Ski with Olympian’ trips and my ski fitness course. I’m now currently on route to Canada and USA for the World Championships at the end of Jan.”
I know you’re self funded, has the Olympics helped with this, or is it still a daily struggle in terms of trying to juggle work and sport?
“Being self funded has always been a huge challenge for me. As an athlete as you always have to work in the summer to fund the winters so you end up juggling multiple daily training sessions with full time employment… a very different lifestyle to that of my peers who are full time athletes with a support team and coaches. It makes me giggle to think I competed on the world circuit for 10 years alone with no coach, but I suppose that journey definitely made getting the result I did at the Olympics an even prouder moment!
Last year I was so lucky to have ABC Group as my headline sponsor which allowed me to be a full time athlete for the first time in my career. I also have some great sponsors who have and continue to support me who I’ll be forever grateful too! Mainly, I could not do this without the support of my friends and family who have continually stuck by me through some fairly horrendous times.
What are you working towards now?
Now the focus is the World Championships in 2 weeks in Solitude, Utah, USA. Then I’ll be back to Méribel to teach in my ski school and take some corporate groups to explore the mountains!
What do you do during the summer months?
“In the summer I work with an ex pro rugby player and we convert shipping containers into usable spaces…mainly bars! We have just converted a LandRover Defender into a 8 line tap bar too (@larrythelandrover) which is pretty cool!”
Do you think you’ll be a skier for life? Are you attempting to be at the next Olympics?
“I’ll always be a skier, the mountains bring me so much joy and I never get sick of those Méribel views! I’ll always be keen to share my love for the sport with others and hopefully continue to inspire the next generation.
Right now I haven’t made any decisions on my athletic career, unfortunately being in an extreme sport it can be pretty tough on the body, so I have to ensure all my niggles are dealt with before I make any future decisions.”
Can you tell us a bit about your typical day in the winter? Are you still based in Méribel?
“There is no typical day…I’m always juggling things from training, to sponsor commitments, work, PR, logistics; I wear a lot of hats!
In winter my usual day would include a pre-breakfast cardio blast to get the legs moving, breakfast, pre-ski warmup and activation, a few hours ski training on the mountain, lunch, ski preparation, fitness, emails and sponsor work, further ski prep, dinner and an early night!”
Emily seems to be spotted everywhere these days, but still in a very low-key way. From magazine articles to blogs and just in resorts all over the world. It just goes to show that achieving your dream is always possible if you’re willing to put in the work.