Growing up, Emily Bamford reached a crossroads where she had to choose between professional horse riding and ski racing. Ten years later, and with a Winter Olympics appearance under her belt, we’d say she made the right choice.
On the anniversary of the Sochi Winter Olympics, we catch up with Emily to talk about life choices, chasing your dreams and staying warm in I/O Merino thermal base layers.
As the child of horse training parents, it would have been a natural decision for Emily Bamford to pursue horse riding at an elite level. But she decided to break ranks and pursue ski racing, a decision she wasn’t completely comfortable with til many years later.
“For a while I did question my decision” she says of choosing skiing over riding. “It wasn’t until I turned 20 and had some better results that I felt better about it and it became more evident I had made the right decision. I’m very competitive, so it wasn’t just about how much I loved it, it was also about how successful I thought I could be and I believed I had more hope to be successful in ski racing than I did in horse riding.”
We’ll never know what level she may have attained in the horse riding arena, but there’s no question she’s now made it to the peak of her chosen sport with an appearance at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. A selection, she says, that came as a huge relief.
“It was like a massive weight off my shoulders. I’ve been selected for a lot of things before, including the World Champs, but the Olympics was something I had to try a lot harder for. It didn’t just come along. And it was something I’ve been thinking about since I was ten.”
When the selection did come, it came in the form of the simplest of texts from her mum. “You’re in!” it said. “I was with Lavinia Chrystal (fellow Winter Olympian and I/O Crew Member) at the time, and there were a lot of tears.”
So did it live up to the hype? “There were certain things that were incredible… like the opening ceremony and the lifestyle in the Olympic village. It was very overwhelming at the start, but when I was actually there it didn’t feel so different to a normal training camp except there were a lot of other sports on as well” she explains.
Post-Olympics, Emily enjoyed a few months off her training, but that doesn’t mean she’s left the skis behind altogether. Instead, she used the time to remember what she loved about skiing in the first place. “I skied recreationally every weekend and didn’t even think about training. I just skied around – I forgot how fun it can be. I don’t really have a lot of fun time on skis when I’m training so I totally forgot what it feels like to have nowhere to be and just keep skiing around the mountain.”
Along with fun on the slopes, Emily’s been setting herself up for life after sport. “I’ve started University where I’m studying Professional Communications. I’d like to get into journalism. Over the past year I think the media have been missing an insider who actually understands Winter sports. As opposed to someone who usually reports on Summer sports and then gets switched over to Winter sports every four years.”
When she’s not training or studying, Emily says her dream getaway vacation is as far away from the snow as you can get. “I’ve been to Bali twice in the past 12 months. Every time I have a week of doing nothing I always try to get some sun. It’s important to have a bit of Summer at least for a little bit.” She says the warmer holiday destination also serves another purpose as well though. “It’s also a mental thing, because even though I love it there, by the end of the week the heat starts to get to me and I just want to go back to the snow. I’m completely in my element when it’s cold.”
Although not too cold, it seems. When she first started out, she was yet to discover the wonders of I/O Merino thermal base layers and was frequently uncomfortably cold when training. “I used to wear a bit of everything and would always wear five layers of cotton and still get cold because I didn’t really understand fabrics” she admits. “When I discovered I/O Merino I’d wear the same amount of layers and be sweating so I started to realize how thin layers can be, yet still be very warm. When I first got to Colorado I was just wearing one layer and it was -10!”
Like many of the I/O Crew, Emily lists the Altitude Long Sleeve Zip as one of her favorite pieces, but recently discovered the Limitless Bandana and has quickly fallen for it. “I love it” she says enthusiastically. “I was wearing it all weekend and it was so nice. I love something around my neck but I don’t like it to be thick so this is perfect. And I don’t like having to tie things around my neck so the fact it’s already connected is awesome.”
Despite the success she’s enjoyed, she says pursuing skiing at the highest level hasn’t been without it’s sacrifices. “I haven’t had an Australian Summer since I was 11. But you can’t get better unless you commit to it for the full year and race in Europe and North America when your friends are hanging out at the beach.”
With so much of the year spent on the road, time at home becomes a precious, and much missed, commodity. “Being at home is such a novelty because I only spend about two months there. It’s nice to be in your own bed and have a home cooked meal. It’s the little things in life that everyone takes for granted that I miss most.”
With the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics still a way off in the distance, Emily still hasn’t made up her mind whether or not her sights are set in that direction. “It’s a long time til Pyeongchang so I’ll need to reassess and decide if that’s still the aim.”
Wherever she ends up, you can be sure she’ll be staying warm and comfortable in her I/O Merino thermal base layers.