Jasmin Taylor won more medals at World skiing level last winter than any other British athlete, and this season is going down in similar fashion. The first Brit to ever win a World Championship medal in telemark skiing (which she has now achieved twice), she's a sort of modern day Eddie the Eagle, flying the flag for Brits in this niche sub-genre of skiing, and setting her hopes on winning the Olympics.
Jasmin (Jaz) Taylor reminds me of Shauna Coxsey – young, talented and making it look all too easy as she stacks up medals enroute to her goal: becoming the best in the world. She’s currently ranked number four. Another similarity: they are both the stars of niche sports on their way to the Olympics.
Whereas sport climbing is finally off the subs bench and on its way to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Jasmin is still waiting to hear if telemarking will be accepted for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Flicking through Jaz's Instagram feed, as is a nosey journalist’s wont before an interview, I find lots of captions about how lucky she is to be living her dream, but it’s clearly a lot more than luck. As with Shauna, behind the girlish flowing locks and sweet smile there is an incredible determination to put the work in.
A few career highlights: Jaz has stepped onto World Cup podiums 19 times so far – extremely impressive considering she first tried the sport just eight years ago, aged 16. She came third in the World Championships in both 2015 and 2017, and is a five-time British Champion. This winter’s World Cup series is also going brilliantly for her – she is in Slovenia when I track her down for the interview, and tells me:
“So far we’ve had 14 World Cup race days in Austria, France, the USA, Germany and Slovenia and I’ve achieved 11 podiums, three of which were first place positions.”
Jaz winning a race in the USA on the World Cup circuit in January this year
She's probably been skiing since before she could walk, though, right? Not at all: “It is much more difficult to take part in mountain-based sports when you are from the UK!” she tells me.
“When I was 10 I had a school project on mountains. My parents decided my chosen mountain looked good enough to visit so my dad took me to the local dry ski slope in Ipswich and it all went from there.”
After two years training on the dry slopes of Ipswich, Jaz joined the British Ski Academy as a competitive alpine skier. Three years later, aged 15, she was crowned the youngest British Ski Cross Champion ever (another niche ski genre). A year after that she tried telemark skiing and “loved it straight away.”
Trying telemarking for the first time is a bit like skiing in totally undone ski boots. So what's to like about it, I wonder?
Another podium position in Germany in February this year
“I love the freedom of movement and flow I feel when I am on telemark skis,” she explains. “For the uninitiated, it differs from alpine skiing with its free heel allowing skiers to lunge into turns rather than squat. It's a totally different feeling to alpine skiing, and it is down to personal preference.”
“If you want to try telemarking,” she advises, “don't panic if you don't get it right away as it is very different from most other sports!”
Non-Olympic sports don't get much investment, but that has not held the enterprising 24-year-old back. As a telemarking newbie when she was 17, Jaz didn't have any money or results to show off her potential to sponsors, so she put an advert in the local paper, hoping to raise enough money to get to the British Championships.
The ad simply read: “please donate unwanted items for skier to sell at a car boot sale.”
“People I didn't even know were unbelievably kind and I was able to go to the car boot sales throughout the summer and sell things for practically 100% profit,” she told BBC Sport, who interviewed her last year. She raised over £2,000, won a title at the championships, and secured her first sponsor.
Another first place in Slovenia in Februrary this year
Jaz has been on the British telemark team ever since, and is still working hard to fund her dreams. She now spends her winters in Chamonix – a good base for racing competitions and for training – and her summers in Ipswich, where she works as a gym instructor part-time and studies Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Suffolk part-time. She also manages to fit in a host of other sports for training: running, cycling, rowing, weight lifting, roller skiing, roller skating and swimming.
Jaz has Olympic dreams – telemarking is currently on the subs bench
“Telemarking has applied for inclusion in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing but there is no news yet on whether it will be in. These kind of decisions are processed at committee level. I hope it happens because telemarking is so great to watch and compete in: it's an awesome all-round sport with a skiing, jumping and skating element!”
The current Olympic bid makes it a really exciting time to be a telemarker. The Norwegian county of Telemark – from where the sport originates – donated money in 2015 to help it progress towards its Olympic ambition, and the funding has transformed the sport already.
Another victory in France this year - Jaz with her parents
Former British Telemark skier turned commentator Jack Harvard-Taylor told BBC Sport: “Compared to when I started racing in 2010, the World Cup setup is much more professional now. A lot of investment has gone into live streaming of the events and that has really helped show off the sport to people who had never heard of it before.”
Apparently, over the past four years the number of telemark athletes competing on the World Cup circuit has increased by 20%.
Jaz tells me: “There's a great atmosphere in the British telemark team –we have a lot of fun training together and racing alongside one another. The team comprises an A, B and C team with a variety of ages and levels of experience. There are four other girls on the team and 13 guys in total, though the A team and most competitive members of the B team account for three girls and seven guys.”
Jaz skis on Blossom skis, Meidjo bindings and wears Dare 2b coat and pants. She uses VOLA wax as well as their custom goggles and helmet, Point6 ski socks for comfort and warmth, Reusch gloves for the ultimate mobility and hand protection, Leki poles, and Bamboo Clothing for underlayers and neck warmers.
However, her favourite possession is the Saint Christopher necklace her grandma bought: “I wear that around my neck all the time and it supposedly keeps you safe while travelling – that's the myth anyway.”
We hope it continues to keep you safe and stacking up medals on the World Cup circuit, Jaz!
Find out more at jaztelemark.com and follow her on social media @jaztelemark.
Jaz making it look all too easy in Austria
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