Snowboarding: Jesse's French connection has paid off

JESSE Smith stunned the snowboard world by leaving 250 of the world's best boarders in his slipstream to win a major title, writes NIGEL DUNCAN.

The Edinburgh-based teenager only realised he was in with a shout when he passed one of Britain's top riders near the finish.

And nobody was more surprised than the 18-year-old from Liberton when he was confirmed the winner of the event.

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Smith's success is a reward from spending three months training daily in France since Christmas. And the boarder is now planning to spend the summer abroad practising on glaciers.

Currently, the talented teenager is back home training at Hillend Ski Centre and working part-time in a Midlothian pub.

It's a far cry from the Peppermint Park watering hole in Dalkeith to the glitzy Swiss resort of Laax where he won the Brits Home Run title.

But laid-back Smith takes it all in his stride.

Surprisingly, he's not even targeted the next Winter Olympics in Russia in four years' time.

He's more focused on scraping together the cash to head back to the Continent as soon as possible. "The Home Run brings boarders from all over the world, including professionals," said Smith.

"I was nervous and it was crazy at the start. There were big names being interviewed near the start line. Nobody bothered about me."

Entrants had to line-up, run to their boards, strap them on and go. Smith covered the four-mile course with a 2,000 metre drop in under four minutes, hitting speeds of around 70 mph.

He added: "It was near the bottom when I spotted Jamie Nicholls. He's one of Britain's best and he said something as I passed him. He began to catch me as I neared the finish but it was only after I crossed it that I began to realise I had done okay."

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Smith is doubly pleased as fellow-Scot Ben Kilner, 21, who made his Olympic Games debut in Vancouver in Feburary, won the event in 2009. The prize was a medal and 150 Swiss francs and Smith added: "I'm delighted with the win and the three months in France boarding every day helped."

Ray Smith, Jesse's father, said: "Jesse winning certainly put a few noses out of joint.

"They couldn't believe how a wee Scot who trains on a dry slope could just walk up and beat them."