Since winning Olympic gold as an unfancied youngster at the first ever Winter Olympics halfpipe event in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, Gian Simmen has entered and won countless competitions, including best trick at the 2001 Arctic Challenge and first in the quarterpipe at the O’Neill Pro Freestyle in 2006. He has also competed in the two subsequent Olympics halfpipe championships. While he was unable to replicate his earlier win, he still came a creditable 19th in Salt Lake City, USA, in 2002, and 26th in Turin, Italy, in 2006.
But this Swiss snowboarding star is not a man to rest on his Olympic laurels. Jaw-dropping parts in exciting snowboard films such as King Size (see above) and Green have helped him to stay at the forefront of a sport that prizes footage as highly as competition wins. And although Simmen is 32, his victory at the 2009 Walliser Tour – one of Switzerland’s biggest snowboard events – shows that he still has the ability to compete with the 20-somethings that dominate the sport. Serious injuries, however, including two badly torn cruciate ligaments, mean he increasingly opts for a more forgiving, yet equally rewarding, type of riding. ‘As a kid you just want to hit the biggest jumps and rails in the park,’ he says. ‘As you get older you start to think about the other things the sport can offer. In my case that’s building and riding jumps away from resort-maintained slopes.
‘It takes a lot of experience to do this kind of thing safely because of the risk of off-piste avalanches. Once you understand how the snow behaves it’s great, because you can still push yourself – falling in the soft back-country snow doesn’t hurt as much as landing on hard-packed snow in an icy park.’
To find out how Simmen protects his body and to build similar resilience, get your hands on the Christmas issue of MF - it features a pipe/park-ready workout he's devised for you. You can subscribe to the magazine here.
Go to the King Size site to find out more about the movie.
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