BRITAIN has won its first Olympic medal on snow after Jenny Jones took bronze in the women’s slopestyle at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
The 33-year-old snowboarder, making her Olympic debut, said “I can’t believe it” after coming third in the sport’s first appearance in the games.
Her feat comes 12 years after Scots skier Alain Baxter won bronze but was then stripped of his medal because he had taken a Vicks nasal inhaler.
Jones was the oldest contestant in the final of the sport, combining daredevil feats of aerial acrobatics and freestyle tricks, jumps of varying heights and an assortment of obstacles.
She has suffered her fair share of injuries in pursuit of glory, including suffering concussion during a training session in Austria. She posted a photo her herself, complete with black eye, on her Facebook page.
An emotional Jones was hugged by her mother on live television at the bottom of the 2,083ft course, while a small crowd of fans gathered nearby and waved Union flags.
Jones, from Bristol, who won on the second day of the Winter Olympics, said her first run was “as clean as a whistle” and her second was the best run she could have done.
“It feels amazing. I can’t believe it. I’m just so happy right now. It was so difficult waiting. I thought I did my best run and landed it as best I could.”
She also said: “I feel so proud to get on the podium. A few said ‘Is she past it?’ but I did what I could and, thankfully, it got me on there.”
Jones later wrote on Twitter: “Aaahhhhhh !! Did I just get bronze at the friggin Olympics!! #ridiculous”.
Sports stars expressed their delight at Jones’ achievement, with British Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill tweeting: “Amazing @jennyjonessnow I was gripped!!”
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray tweeted after Jones’s run: “Jenny jones! Is it wrong to hope everyone left falls?”
Jones’s success is seen as all the more remarkable because of the lack of natural snowboarding terrain in the UK. After developing an interest in the sport, she went to France to pursue it full time, funding her season by working in a chalet.
Liz Nicholl, UK Sport chief executive, said: “UK Sport is hugely proud to have supported Jenny as a member of our National Lottery-funded World Class Performance Programme. It’s wonderful to see all the hard work and dedication of Jenny, her coaches and support staff, realised when it mattered the most.
“Jenny winning a historic first British Olympic medal on snow, in the new slopestyle snowboarding discipline, will create a huge sense of excitement and momentum within the team.”
Jones is being billed as the first Briton to win a medal on snow in the 90 years of the Winter Olympics.
However, skier Baxter, from Aviemore was Britain’s first medal-winner on snow in the 2002 Winter Olympics after finishing third in the men’s slalom only to have his bronze controversially taken away after he failed a drugs test.
An appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared his name but did not secure the return of his medal. Baxter blamed the positive test on the banned substance methamphetamine in a nasal inhaler which contained the substance in the US but not in Britain.
Last night Ian Baxter said his son’s achievement was being overlooked: “When the girl [Jenny Jones] first won it, someone in the commentary box said Alain was the first to win on snow but since then they seem to be saying she’s the first. It’s winding me up.
“Alain won the medal, then lost it. He was cleared but they didn’t give it back to him. The International Olympic Committee is a law unto itself.”
Profile: Former chalet maid’s journey from dry slope to Sochi glory
JENNY Jones, who was born in Bristol on 3 July 1980, first started snowboarding when she was 17 after her local dry slope was offering free lessons.
In 1999 she took the snowboarding world by storm when she won the first of five British Snowboard Championships.
She went on to become a three-times X Games slopestyle gold medallist.
In 2009 Jones secured her position as one of the world’s leading snowboarders by winning a slopestyle gold medal at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
After leaving college, she spent a season funding her love of the sport by working as a chalet maid in the French resort of Tignes, where she returned more than ten years later to scoop gold in the Euro X Games in 2010.
Jones funded her career through part-time jobs including inspecting cupboards in a factory, working in a doughnut shop and teaching fencing to children.
After suffering a number of training injuries, she said she had banned herself from high heels, skateboarding and Irish dancing until after the Games.
In January she was named as one of the Team GB squad to compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in the Games’ first ever snowslope event.
She is a patron of the Caring Cancer Trust.